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Father Says Son Enjoyed Taking Risks : Thousand Oaks: The 14-year-old died after drinking two to three inches of whiskey in a jug, allegedly on a dare.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The father of a Thousand Oaks boy who died of alcohol poisoning last month after two older chaperons allegedly dared him to chug whiskey described his 14-year-old son Wednesday as a boy inclined to take on dangerous challenges.

Leland (Lee) Scovis was a boy who dreamed of adventure stories, his father said. And he had hopes of someday becoming a professional writer.

“He was a really good kid. He had a lot of spirit,” said Art Scovis, dabbing at tears as he spoke of his adopted son. “Yes, he would have taken a challenge.

“Lee was right in this case: He could drink the rest of that liquor,” Scovis added. “He just didn’t realize what it would do to him.”

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On April 14, Leland went on a camping trip at Leo Carrillo State Beach with four other teen-age boys. Two of the chaperons--construction workers David Campbell, 29, and his brother Patrick Campbell, 23--allegedly bet Leland that he could not drink the two to three inches of alcohol left in a gallon jug of whiskey without getting sick.

Leland drank the whiskey quickly and collapsed about 15 minutes later, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Two hours later, after Leland had developed breathing problems, one of the Campbell brothers began attempts at cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Leland was taken by helicopter to Westlake Medical Center in Westlake Village on the morning of April 15. At 3 a.m., Art Scovis got the call that his son was in cardiac arrest. For the next two days, before the boy died, the anxious family waited and hoped that he would regain consciousness and recover.

Scovis said he brought a tape player into the intensive care unit at the hospital, hoping that the heavy metal music his son loved would awake him.

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“You have hope, and we talked to him hoping to bring him to,” Scovis said. “And all that time his brain was dead.”

Two of the boys on the camping trip had been Leland’s best friends for the past five years, Scovis said. A third chaperon, Priscilla Vernon, 21, of Newbury Park, had been known to the Scovis family for about seven years. She is the sister of one of Leland’s friends and is engaged to David Campbell.

“These were old friends,” Scovis said. “What sort of crazy adult gets a kick out of getting a kid drunk?”

On Monday, the Campbells were each charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, four counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and four counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Vernon was charged with being an accessory to involuntary manslaughter and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

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The Campbells surrendered to Los Angeles County deputies on Tuesday and were released Wednesday on bail. Vernon, who also turned herself in, was cited and released.

The three defendants are scheduled to be arraigned June 13, said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Gordon.

Leland was born in Korea and adopted by Scovis and his wife, Jenny, when he was 2 years old. He has two older sisters.

As he discussed his son on Wednesday, Scovis said he has heard that Leland--who was 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed 155 pounds--was the kind of boy who would protect classmates from school bullies.

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Leland was a freshman at Thousand Oaks High School. Classmates there described him Wednesday as a loner at times. His father said the boy indulged in fantasies, enjoyed playing Dungeons and Dragons and sometimes lost himself in adventure stories.

The boy’s room was testimony to a thirst for swashbuckling adventure. On the walls hung his father’s old fencing sword, a sword from the Philippines and an 18th-Century English cutlass--a gift from his parents.

Just last fall, a fantasy story that Leland had written about a young hero rescuing people with the aid of his sword was accepted for publication in Young People Today magazine.

Leland, tremendously excited by his first publication, never cashed the $5 check he was paid for the story.

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Scovis said that after Leland’s death, he found a notebook of stories Leland had started and stopped.

“He showed a lot of talent,” Scovis said. “He wasn’t a great student. He wasn’t a great athlete. He was a good person.”


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