Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Remorseful Teen Gets 15 Days for Burglaries; His Apology Touches Family He Took Car from; They Pass Up Opportunity to Speak against Him in Court

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Remorseful Teen Gets 15 Days for Burglaries; His Apology Touches Family He Took Car from; They Pass Up Opportunity to Speak against Him in Court

Article excerpt

Byline: BRAD SCHMIDT

GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- The second row of a Clay County courtroom belonged Monday to the Mendez family, there to support their youngest as he owned up to making a series of mistakes that will cost him 15 days of freedom.

How Santos Mendez and his family got there he'll never know. Raised by the strap, the 40-year-old father of four vowed not to go that route with his children. He tried to his best to keep tabs on the activities of his only son, a 14-year-old who goes by the same name as his father.

So on the day investigators arrived at Mendez's Orange Park home asking about $150,000 worth of stolen property, he was shocked.

When authorities started asking questions, Mendez remembers his fatherly instincts kicking in and he told his son to stay quiet. But Santos was on the verge of a breakdown, and he quickly confessed.

"It was killing him," Mendez said. "I guess inside he wanted to tell somebody."

The family soon learned their son had spent the month of May burglarizing four homes, three in the affluent Orange Park County Club community. Santos took expensive jewelry, a Rolex watch, guns and knives. He even found the keys to a 1998 Porsche Boxster, which he took for a joyride before parking it behind a vacant house a few doors from his own.

Mendez, the owner of a personal chauffeur business, had no idea what his son was up to.

"It's betrayal to you and everyone around you," he said. "It's like doing something behind your back, and it hurts."

Dealing with the subsequent fallout has been difficult for Santos, his father said. Santos cried for days after his arrest and has seen a counselor. Worst of all, Santos -- who had never been in trouble before -- didn't have a reason to steal, his father said.

That sentiment came out in court Monday, when Santos' attorney, Edward Dawkins, read aloud a handwritten apology prepared by the teen. …

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