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Oakland County news

Oakland youth in sex diary case found dead

Parents blame a drug overdose

March 23, 2004

BY MARSHA LOW
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Justin Fawcett, whose name was among 22 penned in a 14-year-old girl's sex diary, was found dead in his bedroom Friday.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office has yet to determine the cause of death, but David and Gayle Fawcett said their son died of a drug overdose.

Fawcett, 20, learned recently that his name would appear on the state's sex-offender list. His parents said they believe learning that he would live as a marked man came as a shock, and he faltered.

"I believe he did what he usually did -- he tried to calm the demons with medication," Gayle Fawcett said. "I don't feel Justin intended to die. I think he took the risk that he took so many times. But this time, things went wrong."

Fawcett, who led a short but troubled life on drugs and in therapy, was working hard to get his life back in order.

In May 2002, at age 18, Fawcett was one of four young men charged with statutory rape for having sex with a 14-year-old Andover High School student.

The girl's diary later revealed she had been sneaking out of her parents' Bloomfield Township home in the middle of the night to have oral and anal sex with 22 boys and men.

In a May 2002 interview with the Free Press, the girl conceded that she was a predator and a victim: "I declare I am both. Yes, I'm a victim. I was a victim who was deceived by my own emotions and ignorance, of misplaced confidence, a victim of my own fantasies . . . Yes, predator for I chase people who themselves were victims of misplaced confidence."

In September 2002, Fawcett pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of seduction, allowing him to avoid jail time and registry on the sex-offender list.

But a complicated series of legal events would later change that plea agreement, to the surprise of Fawcett and his parents.

Fawcett was sentenced under the state's Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. Under the act, Fawcett's record would have been wiped clean as long as he met the requirements of his probation. In this case, Fawcett was instructed to stay out of trouble, not use drugs or alcohol and to pay his court fees.

Instead, Fawcett violated probation in December 2002 when West Bloomfield police found him illegally possessing prescription drugs. He also failed to pay court fees. And in January 2003, he was arrested for stealing from a vehicle. He served 10 months in the Oakland County Jail.

Pleading to seduction as Fawcett did in 2002 meant his name would not appear on the sex-offender list. But changes last year require those who pleaded guilty to seduction to appear on the list, said the county's Chief Deputy Prosecutor Deborah Carley.

Fawcett was released from jail on Dec. 30.

He enrolled at Oakland Community College with the hope of earning a business degree. He was earning good grades and making plans to take a job this spring, his father said. His parents said he was working toward cleaning up his life.

In late February, Fawcett proudly took his well-received school reports to his probation officer as proof that he was a man getting his life in order, David Fawcett said. He was told then that he would be placed on the sex-offender list.

His parents called it a devastating blow to their son. They said they believe the plea agreement he made two years ago should stand.

The Fawcetts said juveniles have consensual sex all the time. And though they do not approve, they said they believe it is a mistake for the law to mark their son for life and label him a danger.

"We thought he was on the road back," David Fawcett said. "He would sometimes say he'd kill himself, and that worried us. But we watched him and we didn't think he was suicidal."

Fawcett's parents described him as a strong-willed and artistic boy who played the piano and enjoyed baseball and soccer.

Fawcett began to withdraw from his family during his middle school years. In high school, he turned to drugs.

"He gave it all up for drugs," David Fawcett said. "People on drugs lose interest in everything else. He graduated from Andover in 2001, but it was difficult for him to get to that point."

The Fawcetts said they will work to give meaning to their son's life. They plan to campaign against drug use and to make the sex-offender list more meaningful.

"The sex-offender list was created so that people could know if there is a predator in their neighborhood," David Fawcett said. "Justin was not a predator, he was not a threat to anyone, and he should not have been on that list."

Contact MARSHA LOW at 248-351-3299 or low@freepress.com.


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