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D.A. Delays Filing Charges Against Whiz Kid’s Father

Times Staff Writer

No formal charges will be filed at this time against Agustin De Mello, who was arrested in September for allegedly endangering his “whiz kid” son, the Santa Cruz district attorney’s office announced Thursday.

Adragon De Mello, 12, earned a degree in mathematics from UC Santa Cruz in June, becoming the youngest graduate of an American university and the focus of considerable media attention. He was removed from his father’s Santa Cruz home and placed in protective custody in September when allegations surfaced that the father had threatened the boy’s professors, made a suicide pact with the boy and engaged in other bizarre behavior.

“The evidence uncovered to date shows that there was emotional abuse inflicted by Adragon De Mello’s father over a several-year period of time,” Dist. Atty. Arthur Danner stated in a two-page press release. But charges will not be filed at this time because requiring Adragon to testify would be “extremely detrimental to his psychological and mental health.”

Danner charged in the release that the elder De Mello was “obsessed” with the boy “achieving academic stardom” and that Adragon “has already endured unjustifiable mental anguish beyond that which any 12-year-old should have to endure.”

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The district attorney may prosecute the elder De Mello in the future if the boy undergoes “therapeutic recovery” that allows him to testify, Danner said, adding that the statute of limitations in the case is one year on misdemeanor charges and three years on felony charges.

Adragon, who De Mello said he believes “may be the most intelligent child so far found in this world,” remains in the protective custody of Santa Cruz County’s Child Protective Services. A trial to determine ultimate custody of the boy is scheduled for Nov. 22.

Agustin De Mello, who remains embroiled in a custody battle for Adragon with the boy’s mother, Cathy Gunn, a 36-year-old technical writer, Thursday repeated his denial of the abuse accusations.

“It should have been over before it began,” he said of the case. “I hope my son is back with me soon.”

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“I can understand why (the district attorney) would not want to file charges, as I think conviction would be very unlikely,” said Paul Meltzer, De Mello’s attorney. He refused to respond further to “rumor, gossip, or informal accusation. If they want to accuse my client of a crime, that should be done in a courtroom so that he has the opportunity to face his accusers and present evidence on his own behalf.”

Pat Vorreiter, attorney for Gunn, said that the criminal proceedings have no bearing on her client’s attempt to gain primary custody of Adragon.

“We are in the process of working out a temporary agreement through the Child Protective Services and the juvenile court that will give both parents some access to the child,” she said. “Whether we can reach an arrangement that both parents can agree to, I’m not sure. If we can, we can avoid a trial, and we’re working towards that.”


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