Teen suspects remain in juvenile detention center

Published On: Aug 06 2014 10:12:58 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 09 2014 06:55:55 PM EDT

A real lesson in "tough love"; that's how the Baker County sheriff describes one couple's decision after two teens were arrested, accused of robbing a convenience store. The boys are at a juvenile detention center in Gainesville.

MACCLENNY, Fla. -

The family who turned in two Baker County teens accused of robbing a Kangaroo convenient store says the boys are doing OK but got a good wake-up call.

They were taken to a juvenile detention center in Gainesville on Tuesday night, and Zelda Graham got to see her son and grandson Wednesday morning.

"When he looked at me, there was no, 'I hate you,' there was no animosity on his face," she said. "Because I know what kind of kids I raised. He just looked at me and I said, 'I love you,' and he said, 'I love you, too.' He said, 'I miss you,' and I said, 'I miss you, too.'"

The Baker County Sheriff's office recognizes what the two parents did. Sheriff Joey Dobson said he believes the family saved the kids' lives.

Dobson said he knows the Grahams very well and that Willie and Zelda Graham are good parents, hard workers and good to their kids, which is why he wouldn't expect any less from them.

"I talk about tough love all the time, and its hard to do with kids, but I think we'd have less problems with kids and less problems with the violence we have in certain places if we had tough love sometimes," Dobson said.

Deputies said the 14- and 15-year-old went into the Kangaroo store in Macclenny just before 4 a.m. Monday, held a pellet gun to the clerk and asked the employee to empty the cash register. Deputies said the teens took off shortly after getting $69.11.

The Sheriff's Office began looking for suspects, and Willie Graham started becoming suspicious of his son and grandson and decided to go look at the surveillance video himself. Once he realized it was them, he called deputies.

Dobson said he hopes the teens will stay in the juvenile justice system and not be charged as adults because of the cooperation from their family.

The boys are expected to make a court appearance in Baker County on Thursday.

"I'll have knee scrapes on my knees before I go to court, 'cause I'll be praying my butt off," Zelda Graham said. "But whatever happens is what God has ordained to happen. Whatever happens, I will be OK with it."

A local attorney not affiliated with the case said if the boys are charged as adults, they could be looking at significant jail time. If charged as minors, incarceration could be much shorter.

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