The Kid Who Killed

Combine an angry kid desperate for attention, the excitement of the last day of school, and a stolen pistol. The results are deadly.

On H Street, Tiffany often sits on an old blue rusted Camaro and watches life pass by. Most days are the same here in Osborne, a predominantly black section of Lake Worth wedged between the railroad tracks and Dixie Highway. The streets are cracked and potholed, and the dull beat of the heat is broken only by an occasional friend passing by, or a train rumbling past, or a police car hunting for criminals.

Rarely does Tiffany, who's 13 years old, see anything that truly excites her anymore on H Street. But it happens every now and again. Like the day she saw the gun.

On May 23, in the languid hours after school, she walked across the street to say hi to a couple of neighborhood boys, Kervin Dieujuste and Nathaniel Brazill. Bookish and articulate, both seemed to inhabit H Street in body only; their minds were always somewhere else: in music, in movies, in video games, in cyberspace. But they were nice enough, and Tiffany liked them. Nate, a 13-year-old seventh grader, was especially hilarious. He was always smiling and pranking, sometimes to the point of exasperation. Nate was a trip.

After holding the dying Grunow in his arms, geography teacher Brett Packard wonders if he'll ever again want to return to his career in the classroom
After holding the dying Grunow in his arms, geography teacher Brett Packard wonders if he'll ever again want to return to his career in the classroom
Nate, shown here in court, displays his familiar deadpan. Since killing the teacher, he's shown little emotion in public, but his lawyers say he's pining for home
AP World Wide
Nate, shown here in court, displays his familiar deadpan. Since killing the teacher, he's shown little emotion in public, but his lawyers say he's pining for home
Nate allegedly racked a round, pointed the pistol at beloved teacher Barry Grunow's head, and pulled the trigger, according to police
AP World Wide
Nate allegedly racked a round, pointed the pistol at beloved teacher Barry Grunow's head, and pulled the trigger, according to police
After holding the dying Grunow in his arms, geography teacher Brett Packard wonders if he'll ever again want to return to his career in the classroom
Preston
After holding the dying Grunow in his arms, geography teacher Brett Packard wonders if he'll ever again want to return to his career in the classroom
Polly Ann Powell knew that her son was special, but his committing the most notorious crime in Lake Worth history was a world away from what she had in mind
Polly Ann Powell knew that her son was special, but his committing the most notorious crime in Lake Worth history was a world away from what she had in mind
Nate spent most of his free time inside this little triplex, watching mostly violent movies, clicking away on his computer, and dreaming of a military career
Preston
Nate spent most of his free time inside this little triplex, watching mostly violent movies, clicking away on his computer, and dreaming of a military career
Nate now resides in the juvenile wing of the huge Palm Beach County Jail, where he holds the distinction of being the youngest resident
Preston
Nate now resides in the juvenile wing of the huge Palm Beach County Jail, where he holds the distinction of being the youngest resident

"What y'all doing?" she asked them.

Kervin, also a seventh grader, blurted, "Nate has a gun," and, as if on cue, Nate started for his pants pocket.

"I don't want to see it," Tiffany said, clenching her eyes shut.

But then she peeked and saw the handle of a .25-caliber Raven pistol jutting from Nate's pocket. The gun, which was real and quite deadly, looked small enough to come out of a McDonald's Happy Meal. The sight of it filled her with excitement and dread. "Oooooh, Nate," she said, as he stuffed the gun back in his pocket. Then she asked where he got it.

"My granddad," he answered calmly.

"Does your mom know you got it?"

"No."

"Where do you keep it?"

"In my bedroom."

Then she asked the big question.

"Would you kill somebody, Nate?"

"Not unless I had to."

Tiffany says she didn't utter a word about Nate's gun after that, not even to her mother. Especially not to her mother. "I didn't want her to get all upset," she explains.

Kervin, who counted Nate as one of his best friends and played the tuba alongside him in the school band, didn't speak up about the gun either, though he swears he intended to. The son of Haitian immigrants, Kervin says he decided to tell a teacher about the gun, possibly his English teacher, Barry Grunow. Mr. Grunow was his favorite teacher, a guy who always seemed to find a way to make reading fun.

But then a strange thing happened to thwart his plan: Kervin says he forgot all about the gun that night while he was sleeping.

"Really, I would've told somebody," he says, standing in the doorway of his family's tiny H Street apartment, the thick smell of grease from his mother's cooking wafting out from behind him. "But I forgot. That's how I am. Every time I have a dream, I forget the things that are really, really important."

He had no idea how important it was until three days later, just before the final bell sounded on the last day at Lake Worth Community Middle School. Kervin was sitting in his geography class when he heard a popping sound, which brought to mind a balloon being pricked. Then Kervin heard a gut-wrenching scream followed by more screams. Soon kids around him were crying, and they told him something so outrageous he couldn't fathom it: Nate had just shot and killed Mr. Grunow.

Kervin didn't know what to think or feel. He was stunned. His favorite teacher was dead, and his friend was soon to be televised nationwide -- the latest young monster in the ongoing series of school shooters. To make matters worse, Kervin never could seem to get the emotional release that seemed to come so easy to other students. "Man, I wish I could have, but I couldn't cry," he says.

Kervin may not be sure of his own emotions, but he does think he knows why Nate, an undeniably bright boy who'd never been in any serious trouble before, killed. "I think he just got really, really mad," Kervin surmises. "I think it just went off in his mind."

Nate was furious on the day of the shooting, the last day of school. He'd been suspended for throwing a water balloon and was also still stinging from the rejection of a schoolyard crush. In the aftermath of the shooting, most news reports portrayed Nate as simply another troubled teen looking for revenge on the world he felt had wronged him, à la Columbine.

But Nate himself is anything but simple. Rather he's a contradictory boy who seemed to enjoy being unpredictable. A black kid living in a dicey part of town, he didn't talk or act like other street kids and didn't much associate with them, either. Instead of playing outside, Nate spent hours in his room, clicking away on his computer. Rather than sports, Nate played chess, thrived in band class, and wanted to be a cheerleader. Nate was known to break up fights yet was himself capable of sudden, brooding fits of inconsolable anger. He was well-mannered and polite but also was capable of wild pranks and seemed to yearn for attention.

Friends and teachers, who were shocked by his final stunt, are starting to realize that they never really knew Nate at all.

Polly Ann Powell sensed that her son was special early on. As a toddler he ambled about with a Dr. Seuss book in his hands and uttered his favorite command: "Read this!" Powell was struck by the way her son concentrated on books, how he seemed to be absorbing them with those piercing eyes of his. "My little sponge," she called him. Powell didn't really consider him a child, at least not like other children. He wasn't just her little sponge -- he'd become her "little man," too. She adored him.

"I used to open the door and just watch him sleep," she says, as she sits in Nate's room in their little triplex apartment. Her smile is beatific. "Just watch him sleep, that's all."

Powell says she was determined to nurture Nate's mind, to let that sponge soak up knowledge. It was she who saw to it that Nate didn't fall into street life or the sports trap or any other black stereotype. "My son has a brain, and he was going to use it," Powell says. She believed that with proper guidance the world would recognize this, too, that he would do something great. She didn't have any idea whether it would be in business or music or politics, but she says she knew deep down that he'd make history.

One of the first signs that she was right came in preschool, when he became fascinated with computers. His teachers told her what she already knew: Nate was a very smart kid. "They saw what I saw -- that this kid had something great," she says. Then, at Barton Elementary in Lake Worth, he distinguished himself as an honor student. The bumper sticker that proclaimed this achievement is still on the back of Powell's white Ford Probe, the lettering now faded almost to illegibility.

More than anything else, Powell wanted Nate to be somebody. For her family it had always been a struggle. In the 1800s her ancestors worked on South Carolina plantations as slaves. A couple of generations after the Civil War, her grandfather was able to buy 100 acres of farmland, which is still in the family. Powell's father, however, didn't like the hard labor of tobacco and cotton and left the country life for Lake Worth, where he worked construction and, with his wife, raised a family of 12 children.

Powell, who is 34 years old, grew up in Lake Worth and at the age of 21, gave birth to Nate. But she and his father, Nathaniel Brazill Sr., never married. The father did, however, pay child support and has maintained a presence in the boy's life. When Nate was three years old, Powell married Wainford Whitefield, a roofer. According to police and court records, the marriage was a tumultuous one from the start. Less than four months after their wedding, Whitefield balled up his fist and punched Powell in the face, according to police reports. Over the next four years, she called police numerous times complaining of abuse and fear of Whitefield.

Powell says Nate himself was never abused, and she says she did her best to keep him from ever witnessing the fights. "He never saw it because I would make sure he was out of the house," she insists. Powell believes her domestic problems had a nominal effect on her son, but she can't be sure. In the end, she concedes, it's unclear what impact the violence had on Nate.

She and Whitefield separated in 1996 and finally divorced in 1997, the same year Powell gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named Ebony. The father was a truck driver named Marshall Powell, whom she married last year. Rather than accept his sister, Nate considered the baby a rival, his mother says. "He was jealous at first," Powell says. "It was just me and him for eleven and a half years. I told him, "You're her big brother, and you need to spend time with her.' Time went by, and when Ebony learned to walk, he started paying more attention to her."

Nate may have had to share his mother's affection, but he certainly wasn't starved for attention himself. While Powell has never made much money at the nursing home where she's worked the past 11 years, she always managed to save enough to put Nate in nice clothes and give him toys that belied the family's working- to lower-class standing. Powell concedes that she's been accused of spoiling Nate. In addition to kid stuff like a crane set and plastic fire truck, his little room is loaded with expensive toys, like remote-control cars and airplanes. He also had his own color television and the family's VCR was usually in his room, along with movies such as Blade, Enemy of the State, and Hard Rain, all rated R for their violent content.

But even if she did spoil him, Nate proved just how good a son he was last year, when Powell was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat the disease, and she says that Nate was "there for me all the way through it." She rewarded him with a computer system, and Nate was soon spending most of his time at home playing video games and surfing the Internet. His favorite games were flight simulations, in which he could command a cyber helicopter. He also liked to log on to government military sites and even contacted the White House, which sent him a packet of information on the Secret Service.

"He wanted to protect the President, of all things," muses his mother. "He'd say, "Aw Mama, I want to be in the military.' Or he'd want to be a lawyer, or a police officer, or a lieutenant commander and fly Air Force One for the President."

This year, as his ambitions became more and more militaristic, Nate started turning the corner into adulthood. A growth spurt transformed him from a chunky kid into a slender, five-foot-six adolescent. He kept a barbell under his bed to build muscles and impress the girls, who seemed to want only to be his friend anyway. Just recently he tore the childish Power Rangers poster off his wall and stuck a sticker on his door that felt more grown-up. It read: "Crime Scene: Do Not Enter."

When Nate decided, this spring, to kill himself, he chose an unorthodox method: death by Wrigley's.

Every day he'd come to school with packs of gum, quickly chew the pieces, and swallow them. The idea was that if he ate enough gum, it would mess up his stomach and he'd die. Nate told one of his best friends, Michelle Cordovez, that he wanted to off himself because his would-be sweetheart, pretty and bespectacled Dinora Rosales, liked another boy.

"It went on for a month or two," Michelle recalls. "He said he was going to commit suicide, and he would swallow whole packs of gum. I thought he was doing it in a joking kind of way, but I wasn't sure."

That was one of the things about Nate, says Michelle. He did a lot of funny things, and sometimes it was hard to tell if he was serious or what. He usually seemed happy and he had a silly side that craved the spotlight, like the time he cross-dressed for a mythology project in Grunow's class. Nate was Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, and he went all the way with it, wearing a short black skirt, high heels, a wig, and lipstick. He cracked up the whole school with his gender-bending performance.

"He looked like a real girl," recalls 12-year-old neighbor Cedrick Jenkins. "He looked like a trick or something."

But other times, Nate did weird things, like his strange habit of making his lower jaw and chin quiver. His teachers say he'd do this at odd times, in the middle of class, without rhyme or reason. It was hard to tell if he was trying to be funny or if it was some kind of nervous habit. He also swallowed the gum with a deadpan face, leaving his friends to wonder: Was Nate really suicidal or was he just making a joke? Nobody knew.

But his friends were certain about one thing: Nate liked Dinora, who sang in the chorus. It was obvious that he'd been infatuated with her for months. And there was no question that Nate was genuinely hurt by the rejection. Dinora remembers one particularly uncomfortable moment, when she and Nate sat together in the lunchroom.

"Will you go with me, Dinora?" Nate asked between sips of his favorite drink, Fruitopia.

Dinora gave it to him straight. "I'm sorry, but I don't like you like that," she told him. "I like you as a great friend, and I don't want to lose that."

It was the answer every suitor dreads hearing, but Dinora was always sweet to him, and they remained close friends. But Nate never gave up on winning her. A week before the end of school, the band and chorus went on a trip to Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios in Orlando, and Nate and Dinora spent most of the day together. "He was a nice guy," Dinora says. "He was funny."

Dinora wasn't the only one who thought highly of Nate. So did most of his teachers. He was the Student of the Month in December, quite a distinction at a school of 1600 students. Barry Grunow nominated Nate for the honor, as did Brett Packard, his geography teacher.

"He was a quirky kid," Packard says of Nate. "Nate was quiet in class, but still he would get your attention. Now I think about him all the time. Was this kid a great actor? I wonder if he was hiding this darker side all year long."

It wasn't always hidden. One day earlier this year, Nate and another student got into a squabble in Packard's class over a bottle of Fruitopia. Some of the purple stuff spilled on the floor. "So you think, What would King Solomon do?" Packard says. "I took it away from them altogether."

Nate stood up, glared into Packard's eyes. "Give me back my drink," he said.

Packard refused.

"He said it again, only louder and in a real threatening tone: "Give me back my drink!'" Packard recalls. "And he kept saying it, "Give me back my drink,' and it was like he was demanding it back. I was wondering what he was going to do. It was like, And if I don't? What was he going to do?"

Later that day Nate returned to Packard's class and grabbed all the extra pens and pencils that Packard kept in a cup on his desk. "What are you doing?" Packard asked.

"You took my drink, so I'll take all your pencils," Nate replied.

Packard let him take the pencils, which Nate threw in a trash can.

"All I can think is that he didn't want to be shown up," Packard notes, adding that the boy stewed about the incident for weeks afterward. "That seemed to be his attitude, like he had egg all over his face."

In light of what Nate did on the last day of school, Packard says the incident now chills him. At the time, though, it didn't seem like that big a deal. Nate may have acted strangely and his outburst might have been disturbing, but the seventh grade, almost by definition, is a weird time for kids in general. Adolescence is dawning, hormones are kicking in, and bizarre behavior becomes the norm. Next to some of the more boisterous troublemakers at the school -- at which 75 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch and many don't speak English -- Nate was an angel. Packard says he can't count the number of times other students have cursed him, and it's common for the truly troubled students to have to be restrained and removed from the school.

In hindsight Packard thinks he should have called Nate's mother about the Fruitopia incident. "But I didn't do it," he says. "It was a minor thing, but in fact it was a major thing. We've just gotten so used to this kind of treatment from students."

While Nate was a relatively good student and excelled at math, his scholastic achievements have been overblown in the countless "Honor student kills teacher" headlines across the country. Nate, in fact, was no A-B student. He was an A-B-C student, with a few D's and F's sprinkled in. In Packard's geography class, for instance, Nate batted for the cycle in the year's quarterly grading periods, earning an A, B, C, and D. He wasn't much for English, either. Nate was failing Grunow's class.

Grunow, according to some students, was frustrated with Nate's efforts in the class, but Nate's friends say the boy still liked the teacher. Everybody, it seems, liked Grunow. Kervin, Michelle, and Dinora all counted Grunow as their favorite teacher, because he taught books like Treasure Island and The Hobbit with both enthusiasm and humor. During reading time Grunow kept it interesting by talking in different voices and speaking in rhymes to keep up a quick pace.

"He'd say things like, "Gene, Gene, the reading machine, take it away!'" Kervin recalls. "He was just different."

Grunow, a former star high-school basketball player, had built himself a nice family life in Lake Worth on his teacher's salary. His middle-class house on O Street was lushly landscaped and equipped with a swing set for his five-year-old boy and baby daughter. Packard says Grunow was absent-minded and kindhearted and always had a way of making him laugh. They talked shop and graded papers together every day during their planning hour, often while listening to old Jethro Tull tunes. "He was a shining light," Packard says. "I don't want to sound clichéd, but he really was a shining light at this school. He really cared about these kids."

Nate, on the other hand, didn't seem like he cared so much about school anymore during those last two weeks. "At the end it didn't seem like he was getting things done," Packard says. "I don't know why, but he wasn't working hard."

Whatever the reason for his change in attitude, it corresponded with his acquisition of the Raven pistol, which he secretly plucked from the bedroom dresser of a close family friend, 75-year-old Elmore McCray of Boynton Beach, whom Nate affectionately called "Grand."

Nate usually kept it hidden in his bedroom, but his lawyers, Robert Udell and Lance Richard, say he would also carry the gun around with him in his pocket, the power of life and death hidden on his hip. Police believe nobody knew about the gun but Tiffany, who didn't want to cause a stir, and Kervin, who forgot about it.

On the morning of May 26, Nate certainly didn't fit the image of a killer. Instead of a gun, he was carrying three $2.99 bouquets of flowers and a heart-shape balloon he'd just bought from Walgreens. The purchase almost caused him to miss the school bus, but the driver saw Nate in time and waited for him to run across the street and climb aboard.

Later that morning Nate and Kervin walked through campus to the 300 building, where the pair had most of their classes. In the gray terrazzo-tiled hallway of the building, Nate spied Dinora and presented her with the flowers and balloon. He still hadn't given up on her. Kervin says Dinora gave a smiling Nate a kiss on the cheek. Dinora says she doesn't remember if she kissed him or just gave him a hug.

"I was like, "Oh thank you, that's sweet,'" Dinora recalls. The flowers, however, didn't change her feelings. She and Nate would never be anything more than good friends, she says.

The rest of the morning was uneventful. Administrators had beefed up supervision to prevent any last-day shenanigans. It wasn't guns they were worried about, says assistant principal Robert Hatcher. It was kid stuff, like water balloons. Book bags were banned on that last day, and staffers kept an extra close eye on students. Regardless of the extra measures, water balloons were plentiful outside the 300 building after lunch, recalls Nate's friend Michelle Cordovez.

Both she and Nate were given water balloons to join the fun. Michelle says that the ensuing horseplay was just some clean fun on a day when all the kids were "wired" with excitement, anyway. She chased friends with the balloon, and Nate, she recalls, threw one.

Watching in the wings was the school's 26-year-old guidance counselor, Kevin Hinds. Michelle recalls that Hinds, a usually cheerful presence, had a "mad expression on his face" when he took the water balloon from her hands and told her to go to the office. When she got there, she saw Nate. Hinds had caught him, too. The counselor went to Hatcher, who decided to suspend the pair for the rest of the day. Hatcher called their parents and asked them if they wanted to pick the kids up. Nate's mother was at work, and she told Hatcher to let Nate walk. Michelle's father also gave his daughter walking papers.

Hatcher says the decision to suspend was easy -- the students had been warned. Hinds, in his first public comment on the shooting, says that Nate was noticeably frustrated about the suspension but no more than Michelle was. He says there was no indication that Nate -- whom Hinds considered a great student -- was going to hurt anybody. As he speaks of his fateful decision to take Nate to the office, Hinds' voice quakes with emotion. "What was I supposed to do? I can only act on what I see. He was doing this right out in the open," Hinds says. "If you're on a corner and you see a hit-and-run, are you going to call the police? What are you going to do?"

Hinds led Nate and Michelle off campus. "[Nate] couldn't believe he got suspended," Michelle recalls. "All those other people didn't get in trouble. Just us. I couldn't believe we got suspended for something so stupid on the last day of school. We couldn't even say goodbye to our friends."

As they started walking off campus, Nate ran back to Hinds. "When are you leaving campus today?" he asked the counselor.

"I just told him the regular time, 4:15 or 4:30," Hinds recalls. "I asked him why he was asking, and he just shrugged his shoulders and walked away."

Hinds assumed Nate was going to have his mother call him, but Nate had other ideas, Michelle says. When he rejoined the girl off campus, Nate told her he had a gun. "And he said he was going to come back and shoot our guidance counselor," Michelle says.

Yeah, right, Michelle thought. Just like you're going to commit suicide by swallowing gum.

"You're not going to do that," she told him.

"Watch," he said, staring straight ahead. "I'm gonna be all over the news."

Michelle says it went in one ear and out the other. It was just one of those weird Nate jokes. When they got to the I-95 overpass, where they had to part ways, they hugged.

"I love you," Nate told her.

"I love you, too," Michelle said back. "Have a nice summer."

Rather than walk the two and a half miles or so to his home, Nate hitched a ride from a Lake Worth Pizza deliveryman. The ride would give Nate time to get back to the school before the day ended. Nate made his way to his grandmother's house, where he needed to pick up an apartment key to get into his own home a few blocks away. Everlena Josey noticed that her grandson seemed out of sorts and angry, but she figured he was just tired from the walk. She gave him a key, and he went home, got into his room, put the gun in his pocket, and rode his BMX bike back to school.

Just minutes before the final bell was supposed to ring, Nate quietly left his bike at a chainlink gate in the back of the school, near the teachers' parking lot. According to police, Officer Matthew Baxter, who works full-time at the school, saw Nate from a distance and drove his golf cart over to investigate. But in the maze of portable classrooms and buildings, Baxter lost track of the boy and instead found only the bike, which he put in his cart. By that time, just minutes before the final bell, Nate was in the 300 building, walking toward Grunow, who stood in his classroom's doorway chatting with Dinora and Vonae Ware, another girl on whom Nate, according to friends, also once had a crush. (In an eerie coincidence, Grunow had just finished playing the class a video titled, "Killing Mr. Griffin," based on an acclaimed book about a group of students killing their English teacher.)

Why Nate didn't go into the administrative offices and find Hinds is a mystery. Michelle thinks it's because Nate knew he would have been stopped before he could get to Hinds. Whatever the reason, Nate wound up asking Grunow if he could talk with Dinora and Vonae. Grunow told him no. It's not clear whether Grunow was informed of Nate's suspension. But he'd made a decision not to allow other students into his classroom on that last day, Packard says. His intention was merely to keep his students focused.

Dinora, who says she can't bear to speak of the shooting, then watched as Nate pulled out the Raven and pulled back on the slide, racking a round. A bullet already in the chamber fell to the floor. Then he pointed the weapon at the side of the teacher's head, near the temple.

"Nate, quit pointing that gun at me," an alarmed Grunow said.

Nate pulled the trigger and Grunow dropped to the floor.

"Oh shit," said Nate, who then turned and ran.

As he dashed through the building, he came up on his math teacher, John James. "Don't mess with me, Mr. James," Nate said, aiming the gun at the teacher. Wisely, James didn't bother Nate, who ran through an empty classroom and out an emergency exit.

Packard, who was signing yearbooks in the classroom next door to Grunow, came out of his room and saw his friend on the floor, surrounded by Dinora and other students.

"They had such a weird look on their faces," Packard says of the children. "Someone's shot, you expect to see them hysterical. But they were standing there, like they didn't know what to think. For a split second, I thought it might have been a prank."

Strangely Grunow had what appeared to be a faint smile on his face. Then Packard saw the blood pouring from his nose and mouth. Packard grabbed the handkerchief from his back pocket and tried to stop the bleeding. The children, reality finally settling in, began screaming and crying. Packard could feel Grunow's heart pounding in his chest. "Hold on, Barry!" he told his friend. "Hold on!" But Grunow had been shot in the brain. His heartbeat soon ceased.

By this time Nate was headed north, off campus. He jumped two fences before dashing across someone's back yard and into a street. There Nate saw a police car and walked up to the officer, offered up his gun, and told him, "I just shot someone."

Nate did show up all over TV that night, just as he boasted to his friend Michelle. He was shown handcuffed and expressionless outside the Lake Worth police station, being led to a patrol car. All Nate said to the reporters who screamed questions at him was, "Me no speak English."

Another Nate joke.

Polly Ann Powell was dumbfounded when she found out what Nate had done. Street kids, the ones who don't care about education or achievement, wind up in jail. Not Nate, and certainly not for murder. Powell says she simply didn't believe it when she heard that her special boy was the suspect in a school shooting.

She still didn't believe it when she got to the police station that evening. But when she asked her son if the reports on TV were true, he didn't deny them. With tears in her eyes, she asked Nate why.

"I don't know," he told her.

And that, say his attorneys, is about as much of an answer as Nate has given. His lawyers are calling the whole thing a freak accident, an explanation that even attorney Udell concedes is unacceptable to most people.

Dinora, for one. She witnessed the killing firsthand. "I don't know how it could have been an accident," she says, adding that she would like to ask her old friend only one question: "How could you?"

This is the question that still haunts Lake Worth, and though it's generally been met with hands thrown up in the air, at least some of the contributing factors seem obvious. Nate, as Packard observed, hated to be shown up. The suspension left him in a murderous frame of mind. And while killing a teacher is certainly a far cry from cross-dressing at school or troubling his friends with a promise of suicide, Nate had shown a flair for the dramatic. Clearly, getting the attention he craved played a role in the crime.

Add to this his recent struggles, both in school and in his stabs at romance. It may not have been a coincidence that symbols of both of these failings, Grunow and Dinora, were there (one of them the target, the other a witness) when he fired the shot.

These are some of the factors that led a child, or, as it stands now, an adult to kill. State Attorney Barry Krischer has chosen to try Nate as an adult, noting that his slaying of a beloved teacher -- on school grounds, no less -- demands harsh punishment.

This decision, in turn, has led to a political maelstrom. Community activists, religious leaders, and politicians have led protests against Krischer's decision. Despite those efforts, a grand jury agreed with the state attorney and on June 12 indicted Nate as an adult. Nate was promptly transferred from the juvenile detention center to the county jail, where he now holds the distinction of being the youngest inmate. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

Attorney Udell says the best thing Nate has going for him in this case is Nate himself. "When you meet him, you're going to see that he is what makes America great," Udell says. "He's intelligent, sensitive, caring,… just a wonderful kid." Udell says he's so impressed by his young client that he's likely going to put him on the stand at the trial. Udell also arranged for a jailhouse visit with New Times but pulled out a day before it was scheduled to happen. Reality, the attorneys explained, has finally hit the boy. He was crying in his jail cell all day, repeating, "I want to go home."

While Nate pines for home, Packard says he's questioning whether he wants to continue to be a teacher, his profession for 15 years. Seeing Grunow die was the most traumatic moment of his life, and it's caused him to start questioning the worth of his own efforts. Most of his students don't seem to appreciate his work, and even the seemingly good ones, like Nate, might turn bad at any second. "Where is discipline, and where is my role?" Packard asks rather helplessly. "What am I going to do next year in a difficult situation? Where is my control? How far will I go next year?"

As Packard is tormented by these difficult questions, H Street remains pretty much the same. Kervin still spends most of his time inside, watching movies and playing video games. Tiffany, meanwhile, still hangs out by the Camaro, watching the comings and goings.

A week or two after the murder, Tiffany saw Kervin outside, at about the same spot where, three days before the shooting, Nate had shown them the gun. Again she walked across the burning concrete to Kervin and asked, "Don't you miss Nate?"

At that moment Kervin finally knew exactly what he felt: pure rage.

"No," he snapped. "I don't want to see him ever again. He killed Mr. Grunow."

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