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  Teen in Idaho Standoff in Custody

By Nicholas K. Geranios
Associated Press Writer
Friday, June 1, 2001; 9:56 a.m. EDT

SANDPOINT, Idaho –– One of six children involved in a standoff at their rural home was taken into custody overnight after he went to a neighbor, authorities said Friday.

Benjamin McGuckin, 15, who initiated the standoff and is said to be an avid reader of survivalist magazines, went to a neighbor's house late Thursday and accepted the neighbor's offer to drive him to a meeting with authorities, Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson said.

The boy met with a sheriff's deputy, a social worker and two doctors, a pediatrician and a family practitioner.

Although there was "some indication that he was suffering from malnutrition," the boy did not need to be hospitalized and was in the custody of the state Department of Health and Welfare, Robinson said. Robinson said he believed the boy was staying at a juvenile facility in Sandpoint pending more long-term arrangements.

The children's mother, JoAnn McGuckin, 46, was arrested Tuesday on a warrant charging felony injury to a child. Since then, the children left at home – ages 8 to 16 – have refused to leave the house. Two older children live elsewhere.

The other children who remained inside Friday have been identified as Kathryn, 16, Mary, 13, James, 11, Frederick, 9, and Jane, 8.

It was not clear who is in charge, Robinson said.

The standoff began after the mother was lured out of the house by sheriff's deputies. The father, Michael McGuckin, died recently after a long illness and the family has been described as having fallen on hard times.

The prosecutor said he had not met with the boy, nor is the boy the subject of a criminal investigation.

"I don't anticipate filing any charges," Robinson said.

An older daughter, Erina, 19, has been helping authorities try to resolve the standoff, but it was not immediately clear whether Benjamin would join that effort.

"We hope that maybe they can give us some insight into how to wind this thing down," Robinson said.

The standoff began when deputies went to the house for the children after the mother was lured out of the house and arrested. The plan was to put the youngsters in state custody. But the children spotted them, and Benjamin led the others in loosing a pack of vicious dogs and shouted "Get the guns!" Robinson said.

Prosecutors said in court Wednesday that the children were malnourished, dirty and deprived of heat, and that the mother had been spending the family's meager financial resources on alcohol.

Attorney Edgar Steele, representing the mother, disputed the assertion that the children had been neglected and is attempting to get her bail reduced. And Northern Lights, the local power company, said that contrary to previous reports, the house has had electricity throughout the standoff.

Steele went to the house Thursday, but said the children would not speak to him.

A family friend picked up a 200-pound box of staples for the children at the Bonner Community Food Center last Friday, director Alice Wallace said Thursday.

Wallace characterized the McGuckins as "a normal family that has fallen on hard times."

The father of the family died May 12 after suffering from multiple sclerosis for several years. The county coroner attributed McGuckin's death at age 61 to malnutrition and dehydration.

Caring for her husband and the children apparently took a toll on JoAnn who became increasingly paranoid over time, according to those who know her. She blamed chemicals sprayed on roads for her husband's illness and feared the government would take their home and children.

The family refused help from social service agencies and the young children were kept home from school.

The standoff with the children raised the specter of nearby Ruby Ridge. Three people died in that 1992 standoff – anti-government isolationist Randy Weaver's wife and son, and a federal deputy marshal, one of several sent to arrest Weaver on a weapons charge.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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