Lock, Stock, and 48 Smoking Barrels

A year ago Wayne and Danny Dagenais stole guns from a family friend. In an effort to keep then-16-year-old Wayne out of jail, their parents tried to retrieve the weapons. But the plan didn't work.

Michael says he told the cops to go away and tried to shut the door. But Aycock forced her way past him, he claims. Wayne and Danny, who were sleeping, jumped out of their beds and also told the police to get out. "Where are the guns? Where are the guns?" they say the police yelled back. "We know you got 'em."

Legally the brothers could have refused to cooperate. If they had, police could have arrested the boys while clearly stating their Miranda rights, including the rights to remain silent and to obtain an attorney. Michael says he tried to warn his brothers not to talk, but Wayne admitted his involvement in stealing the guns. "I'd never been arrested, so I didn't know the law," Wayne now says. The brothers contend that, while they were at the apartment, the detectives said nothing about an arrest or Miranda rights. And, according to the officers' sworn accounts, no arrest was made at that point. They say they told Wayne and Danny to accompany them to the station. By the time the boys got there, they'd given the cops confessions -- without the advice of their parents or an attorney. They were then arrested and read their rights. Emilio Benítez, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who defends juveniles, says that what the police did is legal but reprehensible. "If you question a child, at least you should have the decency to do so in the presence of the parents or an attorney," he explains, "especially when the child has below-average abilities to read and understand what's going on."

When she arrived at the station, Roxann says, she was told by police that, if her sons fully cooperated, they could go home that night. A licensed practical nurse who describes herself as "legal-stupid," Roxann advised Wayne and Danny to tell everything. So they gave taped confessions. But to her surprise the boys were then transported to the county juvenile detention center. "They lied to us," she says angrily. Maybe so, but cops are legally permitted to lie to get suspects to cooperate, Lewen notes.

The Dagenais family is living in a Davie trailer home, but as soon as Wayne's case is resolved, Roxann wants to get a divorce, slim down, and start dating again
Melissa Jones
The Dagenais family is living in a Davie trailer home, but as soon as Wayne's case is resolved, Roxann wants to get a divorce, slim down, and start dating again

After 21 days of detention, Danny was released. Wayne was transferred to Broward County Jail. Roxann says she and Danny cried when they realized that Wayne's case was being sent to adult court. "Danny kept saying, 'It should have been me, it should have been me,'" Roxann recalls. "He walks around with a lot of guilt because of this."

Danny, who's guarded about his feelings, won't admit that he cried. "I felt so happy when I was pulled out of detention," he says, "but I felt sad when they wouldn't let Wayne out."

While Wayne was talking with his parents on the phone from prison last month, Ken belched, and Roxann shot her husband a dirty look. She wants a divorce. The only reason they're still married is that, after separating last year, they had to move back together to be able to afford a good defense attorney for Wayne.

"My husband is a nice man and a very hard worker, but he's not the smartest person in the world," says Roxann, age 42, a short, round woman with bleached-blond hair who doesn't mince words.

Ken, also 42, is a short, affable man who has limped badly since childhood because of a congenital knee problem and subsequent botched surgical repairs. He graduated from high school without ever learning to read. When he and Roxann met as teenagers in Munster, Indiana, he was working in a steel mill, and she was studying to be a nurse. The couple dated on and off for several years, and just when Roxann was thinking of ending the relationship for good, her father died of a heart attack and her mother, who had a drinking problem, "went nuts." With her family life a mess, she decided to stick with Ken, and they got married. Her mother, who'd moved to South Florida to be close to Roxann's brother, invited the couple to come and share her duplex. Soon after they arrived, Roxann's brother and then her mother committed suicide.

The couple had four sons in quick succession. Because Ken could work only manual labor jobs and Roxann earned more money as a nurse, he stayed home and raised the boys. "They were great kids, so much fun," Roxann recalls. "It wasn't a bad marriage. But when you're raising kids, you really don't look at your life and ask, 'Is this what you really want?'"

Ken loved being Mr. Mom. Like him, though, the boys had severe problems learning to read. From first grade on, Wayne and Danny were placed in special classes for learning-disabled kids. Between that and their physical bulk, they were teased a lot. The taunts subsided only after Wayne beat up one of his sixth-grade tormentors and broke his ribs. (It was the last fight he ever got into, his parents say.) "Wayne had a temper," Danny says. "When someone is fat or ugly, you don't keep making fun of them, or they blow up. That's what I do when someone calls me illiterate."

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