Police investigate branding

Hayden boys may have been involved in hazing


— Hayden police are investigating an incident in which four high school students were branded --ossibly against their will --ith a heated wire coat hanger.

Hayden police Chief Jody Lenahan said Friday that he expects charges to be filed against a group of three or four Hayden High School students suspected of doing the branding.

"A couple of the older boys decided to brand the other boys," Lenahan said. "Some were willing, and some that weren't willing were held down."

The incident reportedly occurred March 11 during a party at a home in Hayden. About 15 juveniles were at the party, and some drank alcohol, Lenahan said.

The mother of the two boys who live at the home was not present. Those two boys were not involved in the branding, Lenahan said, adding that one of them tried to kick out the partygoers after some of the older teens began to brand people.

Hayden police learned about the incident two days later.

"Some information came to us, and we contacted the resource officer," Hayden High School Principal Troy Zabel said.

The incident remains under investigation, and Lenahan said he expects to hand over the case to the District Attorney's Office soon. Lenahan said one of the boys suspected in participating in the branding has admitted to it, but that others are keeping quiet.

The investigation has included interviews with the suspects, victims and the parents of each.

"Some of them are mad at their own kids for going over there," Lenahan said. "Some are mad because they got branded."

Ruby Wertenberger said Friday that her 14-year-old son was branded involuntarily.

Wertenberger said her son suffered second-degree burns along his jaw line. She doesn't think the burns will leave a scar. Lenahan said some of the boys will have scars on their backs, arms, shoulders or faces because of the brandings.

"It just makes me sad, and I don't think the boys realize the seriousness of it," said Wertenberger, who didn't provide details about her son's story because the incident remains under investigation.

Ruby and her husband, Troy, who is a Hayden School Board member, said they plan to pursue legal action against the boy or boys who branded their son.

"They scarred some of these kids for life, emotionally and physically," Ruby Wertenberger said.

Ruby Wertenberger said she thinks the branding incident is part of a bigger problem.

"I just think some of the kids here have gotten away with stuff too long, and they need to be stopped before they end up hurting someone more than this or killing someone."

-- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.


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