Ronda family relief
Sixteen-year-old Andrew Ronda offered a tearful apology to his family during a Thursday morning appearance in juvenile court, where he was sentenced to a mental facility for stabbing his brother in the hand with a paring knife.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," the youngest of the Ronda quadruplets said.
His parents, siblings and other family members returned his apology with support, telling him he was loved.
"It was emotional," said Jami Ronda, Andrew's mother. "I really, really, really wanted to get my arms around him. I just wanted to hold him so badly."
After hearing evidence presented by prosecuting and defense attorneys, Judge Lorenzo Mejia sentenced Andrew to a Portland mental health facility for attempted first-degree assault. Mejia found Andrew culpable for his actions except for insanity, meaning a developmental disability — such as Andrew's high-functioning autism — contributed to the act.
Andrew will be transported to Albertina Kerr, where he will stay until he is 18. Then, based on his behavior and recommendations from mental health officials, he will either be taken to a less-secure facility or to the Oregon State Hospital.
Andrew will remain under the supervision of the Juvenile Psychiatric Security Review Board until his 25th birthday, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert.
"I do believe everybody has worked together in your best interest," Mejia said to Andrew. "You do have the potential to be a contributing member of society, to walk freely in society, but that won't be for a while. We wish you all the best."
"Thank you, your honor," Andrew said.
On May 6, while his parents, Jami and Steve, were in Mexico celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, Andrew stabbed his brother Mark in the hand with a 3-inch paring knife, making a cut that required two stitches.
Based on police reports and statements Andrew made following the assault, a grand jury indicted him as an adult on Measure 11 charges of attempted murder, attempted first- and second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon.
The attempted murder, second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon charges were later dropped following reports from a psychologist and law enforcement.
"We were always working to come up with this type of resolution for Andrew," Heckert said. "We needed to find the right solution for him."
Steve Ronda said he was satisfied with the verdict. He is hopeful Andrew will be able to get the help he needs. Family members are confident he will one day become a productive member of society, perhaps working with troubled youths himself.
"I think Andrew's going to do great things," Steve Ronda said.
Family members hope to visit Andrew once a month at the facility. Steve Ronda said his brother lives 15 miles away from Albertina Kerr and also plans to visit.
It's been a tough four months since Andrew was arrested, family members said. Support from family and friends and their faith in God got them through it, they said. Members of First Baptist Church in Medford, where they attend, brought them meals for three weeks or so after Andrew was taken into custody. Steve Ronda also credited his parents, Jim and Connie Ronda, as being instrumental in getting his family through the ordeal.
"They've been a constant part of helping Andrew," he said.
Jami Ronda said it will be difficult having her youngest son so far away. But knowing he's getting the help he needs provides her with a chance at healing, she said. Recently, she starting blogging about the situation at a site she created called Moms Who Ache: Moms of Prodigal, Ill or Jailed Children (momswhoache.wordpress.com).
"It feels like a new chapter for Andrew," Jami Ronda said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.