By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Are you surprised? Debrow's dark eyes seem to ask. His best buddy got assaulted. Another pal, a TYC kid known as Scrub, hanged himself in his room; he hadn't received a single visitor in the four years he was at Giddings State School. Debrow himself hasn't seen his mother, or any other relative, since 1996; Amarillo was just too far away. He sums up his prospects in one of his chapter titles: "Damn Fool."
Has he changed? Ain't no rehabilitation in prison, he says. Whatever you do you do on your own, and Debrow has applied himself diligently since his TYC days: reading; writing his life story, a project he started in 1998; writing letters to his little brother Thomas Debrow, urging him to forsake gang-banging; exhorting his cousin Dwayne to treat his girl right.
He has learned to value life, he says; he adds, almost plaintively, that he has decided to tell his story because he wants to make a difference in someone's life. He hopes to publish his manuscript, and, rather improbably, he wishes to be known someday as something besides "a 12-year-old killer." It isn't clear what's brought about the change. Time has gone on, Debrow has gained some years and distanced himself from gang activity, and there may be another reason, too. He recently discovered that his appeal of the murder conviction wasn't filed properly in 1992 and was dismissed for "want of jurisdiction." A small cause for hope.
It's a dim one, though, because even his defense lawyer admits the state's case against him was strong. He'll certainly spend some more years in this hellhole first. Then, somewhere in middle age, he will pocket his $50 endowment from the state of Texas, pull on a set of cheap civilian clothes and venture back into the world he hasn't seen since he was 12.
His mother will be waiting.
Dallas Observer editorial assistant Michelle Martinez contributed to this story.