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Killer's motive? It was 'funny'

Wednesday, December 20, 2000

By Cindi Lash, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

14-year-old Youngstown girl admits tossing baby out a window and then stabbing him.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Nearly every morning since his birth in September, tiny Alex Zalovcik began to stir and stretch around 4 a.m., then rousted his dozing mother with his hungry cries.

So when his mother, Dawn Mraz, awoke three hours late to a silent house Monday morning, she knew before her feet hit the chilly floor that something was wrong. Alex no longer lay with her on the sofa where she'd been asleep.

"I was freaking out, crying and running all over the house," said Mraz, 18, of Youngstown. "His car seat was there, his diaper bag was there. But he wasn't there, and I couldn't understand what could have happened."

Then Mraz heard her friend, Jessica Colon, in whose house she was staying, scream from the yard. Rushing out the front door, she found Colon in hysterical sobs and the baby lying dead in the driveway, a kitchen knife protruding from his mouth and another blood-stained knife lying beside him.

Youngstown police said the baby was killed shortly before 7 a.m. Monday by Colon's 14-year-old sister, Jackie Colon, who investigators and neighbors said was attending special-education classes and was being treated for psychological problems. Police have accused Jackie Colon of taking Alex while his mother slept and tossing him out of a second-story window to the driveway below.

Realizing from his cries that Alex was not dead, police said, Jackie Colon made two trips to her kitchen to fetch first a six-inch knife and then a larger bread knife, which she used to stab him several times in the chest and mouth. She then cut off his clothing and left him to die in below-freezing temperatures before walking down the street and boarding her bus to high school, police said.

"We don't really know why she did it, not that there could be any reason for this," said Youngstown police Det. Sgt. Daryl Martin, who interviewed Jackie Colon after she was taken into custody Monday at school.

When police arrived at Chaney High School on Youngstown's West End to question Jackie, Martin said, she greeted them by calmly asking: "Is this about the dead baby?"

With her mother present, Jackie Colon later gave a statement to police in which she admitted that she saw the baby Monday morning when she got up and went downstairs to get something to eat. She said she picked him up because she thought he was cute, then decided to throw him out of the window because "she thought it would be funny," Martin said.

Jackie Colon did not seem to comprehend that the baby had died and expressed concern for only one thing, Martin said. When told she would be taken into custody, he said, she asked if the city's Juvenile Justice Facility had cable television because she didn't want to miss "Full House," her favorite show.

"That wasn't so much an indication of her being cold, but of her inability to know what is wrong. When you talk to her, it's like talking to a 4-year-old, not a 14-year-old," he said.

The slaying occurred at 716 Roxbury Ave., a white-frame house on Youngstown's South Side, a middle-class neighborhood of tidy brick and frame bungalows trimmed for the holidays with evergreen wreaths, red bows and garlands of lights. The house was shared by Jessica Colon, 19, Jackie Colon, their mother, Michelle Colon, and Jessica's unidentified boyfriend.

Mraz, who lived with her baby at her parents' home a few blocks away, said she went to visit the Colons Sunday night after having a spat with her mother.

Once at the Colons' house, Mraz said, she decided to spend the night. Michelle Colon, who works nights at the Delphi Packard electrical wiring factory in Youngstown, wasn't there, but Mraz said Jessica told her she could sleep on the couch.

Mraz said she'd never seen Jackie do anything that made her afraid for her own safety or that of her baby. "I knew her to tell tall stories and do odd things," Mraz said, recalling that Jackie once poured cough syrup in her hair while she slept. "But she used to rub my stomach when I was pregnant with Alex, and she'd play with him and tickle him. I never, ever thought there would be a real problem with her."

Mraz said she left her house so quickly she didn't take a portable crib with her, so she made a bed of blankets for Alex at one end of the Colons' couch and curled up at the other. Jessica's boyfriend slept in a nearby chair.

"Alex would usually wake up for a bottle between 4 and 5 [a.m.] and I would hear every sound, every move he made," Mraz said, burying her head and sobbing in the arms of Alex's father, Joshua Zalovcik, 22, of Youngstown. "I don't understand why I didn't wake up this time. Why didn't I wake up?"

As Mraz wept and gazed at a framed portrait of Alex yesterday in the living room of her sister's house, other relatives, friends and neighbors, many of whom knew the families of both the slain baby and the accused teen, gathered with her and Zalovcik and attempted to console them.

"We've known their family forever. We all grew up together and we did everything together," said Michelle Mraz, 21, who is Dawn Mraz's older sister and lives just a block from the Colon home.

"That's why this is so hard, so unbelievable. I'm friends with [the Colons] but I can't help but feel some hate now."April Krell, 20, of Lisbon, who is the niece of Dawn and Michelle Mraz, said she'd witnessed Jackie Colon hitting and pulling whiskers off kittens when they were younger. She said she recently talked with Michelle Colon about Jackie's refusal to shower or bathe.

"Michelle was in my house about two weeks ago, sitting at my table crying about Jackie," said Nicole Valley of nearby Boardman, Ohio, who said she is Dawn Mraz's cousin and Michelle Colon's friend. "She told me, 'I'm scared Jackie is going to hurt herself or someone else. She knew something was wrong with her daughter. But she couldn't get the help she needed."

Jackie Colon last night was moved from the Juvenile Justice Center in Youngstown to a psychiatric unit at Youngstown's Northside Medical Center after clashing with another youth.

She is awaiting a competency hearing.

Across town at Michelle Mraz's house, Dawn Mraz and Zalovcik clutched each other as they conferred with relatives over arrangements for their baby's small private funeral today. Zalovcik plans to attend; Dawn Mraz does not.

"I'll see Alex once before he's buried, to get the image out of my head of him in the driveway. I want to see him all smiling and beautiful," she said.

"But I can't get through the service. I don't want to seem like a bad mother, but I just don't think I can do it.

"My head is still too full of anger at Jackie. I feel like I won't be able to do anything ever until I can talk to her, to just ask her 'Why?' "

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