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Teen seeking review of sentence for murder

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Thomas Mallo, the juvenile convicted of stabbing his elderly West Side neighbor to death in 2009, will turn 18 next month and return to court to ask that his sentence be reconsidered.

Mallo has been held at the Industrial Home for Youth in Salem since pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the brutal killing of his neighbor, Phyllis Jean Phares, 80. He was sentenced to the maximum of 40 years in prison.

According to law, he was to be incarcerated at a juvenile facility until his 18th birthday. Mallo turns 18 on Dec. 6.

His attorney, Kanawha County Chief Public Defender George Castelle, indicated that the judge could grant a motion for a reduced sentence at his next hearing in mid-December.

Meanwhile, Mallo faces charges in Harrison County after trying to overcome a staffer and flee the juvenile detention center in January. Prosecutors said Mallo is charged with malicious assault, attempted escape and conspiracy to attempt escape.

According to monthly progress reports filed by Salem officials, on Jan. 30 Mallo and another resident attacked and handcuffed an officer while they were taking trash to a Dumpster. He was moved to a more secure unit after that failed escape attempt.

Prior to that incident, Mallo's progress reports indicate that he was doing well with schoolwork - sometimes earning honor roll status. He was in a treatment plan that included learning coping skills to effect positive change and to manage emotions, avoid drug use and deal with family relations.

His most recent report, however, reveals a grade point average of 1.33 and a failed class.

Castelle appealed to Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster to be lenient with Mallo and consider his family life and mental deficiency when he was sentenced in July 2010.

In his written motion, Castelle said, "A harsh and prolonged adult sentence is inappropriate for a defendant who suffers from what was, in essence, a treatable medical condition caused by years of abuse and neglect."

Mallo quit school after seventh grade, but Castelle said he had the academic and behavioral skills of a first grader. He said he had endured "extreme mental, physical and sexual abuse and neglect."

But Webster said nothing in Mallo's background could explain the violence he exacted on 82-year-old Phares, a neighbor he had been friendly with. Police said the woman was stabbed 35 times with a pocketknife.

The investigation into that murder unveiled a Mallo home filled with filth, insect infestations, decay and criminal activity. Every adult member of his family was charged in some way, and two young children were removed from the home.

Assistant Prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said after a status hearing Tuesday that she would oppose any reduction in Mallo's sentence. She also objected when Webster ordered that Mallo be transported from Salem to Tiger Morton Juvenile Detention Center in Dunbar upon his birthday.

Akers said she fears the Dunbar facility isn't secure enough for Mallo. Akers would have preferred Mallo be transferred to South Central Regional Jail.

Although he was only 14 at the time of the murder, Webster agreed to transfer him to adult status for prosecution. He was also charged as an adult in Harrison County, prosecutors said.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832.


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