Allendale teen with autism charged with domestic violence; family calls it unwarranted

ALLENDALE, Mich. - A teen with autism in Ottawa County is being charged with domestic violence following an incident involving his family. They say the charges are unnecessary.

John Wiley says police were called when his 17-year-old stepson, who has the mental capacity of a 12-year old, was having an episode. Wiley says he's been trained by health professionals to contact police if something like this happens. It wasn't until a warrant for his son Stephen Morehouse's arrest arrived in the mail two weeks later that he even heard the words 'domestic violence'.

“It was a sudden change, and Bam! He flipped” said Wiley.

That's what happened after John Wiley says he took away his stepson's electronics back on May 8. Because of that, Morehouse had an episode, something his family says isn't rare.

“I just walked away and he came charging down the hall and I knew I just had to bring him back out here and get him into what we call a basket-hold" said Wiley.

Stephen, who's been suicidal in the past,  started making threats against himself. John took Stephen to the ground and held him until he calmed down, then called the police.

"It's written right in his treatment plan. If he starts doing that, get him right to the hospital," said Wiley. "I called for a service, not for protection. We didn't think anything was coming out of this until two weeks later in the mail we got his warrant."

John says his son was held in jail for almost 24 hours on that warrant without his medication. Court records show Stephen is charged with domestic violence, despite 'no injuries' being written in the police report.

"They need to know how to handle these people with invisible disabilities, without getting them to be criminals," said Wiley. "The system is so wrong."

John says the case is scheduled to go to trial in August, something he says is unnecessary.

"This whole thing could've been avoided," said Morehouse.

“This is just a complete waste of money," said Wiley.

The Ottawa County Prosecutor's Office says they couldn't comment on the case.

The family has hired an attorney out of Lansing. They've also made a Go Fund Me page to help out with legal fees, since they say this will cost a minimum of $5,000.

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19 comments

  • crunchysukha

    Years ago I was having mental health issues and my then gf called the police to bring me to the hospital. They arrested me instead, refuse to give me my medication, and I now have a domestic assault on my record. Allendale police are apparently not very equipped at handling mental issues. It’s pretty much ruined my life when all I needed was help.

    • Michael

      If they arrested you for domestic that means you assaulted her. If you have a conviction on your record you either pled guilty or went to trial and were convicted.

      Sorry but it sounds like Allendale did it right.

      No police department is “equipped” to handle mental health issues. There’s a lot of agencies geared toward that however law enforcement isn’t one of them. The only real way law enforcement can get you help is to arrest you. That gets the court involved and they can order treatment. Get help before it gets to the point of being arrested.

      • Tammi

        No, Allendale cops might not have done it right. He may have been strong armed to plea to charges. He has mental illness. Therefore, his coping skills are already compromised. Not all Allendale cops are bad but in Ottawa County there are def a few.
        The ones who are not are never held accountable or sent for additional training. I get there are 2 sides to every story but believe me, heard too many for there not to be mandatory re training. Lack of support or poor management may be another issue.

      • Tracy

        Yes Police officers should be trained to handle mental illness cases. My son had the same problem and I was instructed by his psychiatrist that if he had a bad episode that I was to call the police. Please should be trained to assist you in situations like this, not arrest the person with the illness.

      • Bob

        So Michael…you’re a cop right? That’s the type of reply a cop would make. They do NOT have to arrest you to get you help. That’s ridiculous! Go back to school…

    • jlt

      Old Bob — they called 911. Police were first responders. Any parent with a child in this situation is taught the same thing. The family did the right thing.

      • Michael

        Isn’t it ironic that the parent is saying law enforcement needs training on how to deal with these kind of cases when he called 911 because he couldn’t deal with it after 17 years of practice?

        The law is black and white. If there’s an assault and it meets the definition of a domestic the suspect “shall” be arrested. The law doesn’t allow for officer discretion in domestics.

        Don’t call 911 after a domestic if you don’t want your family arrested.

        • Tammi

          Absolutely… do not call 911 in Allendale. Best to try and deal with it yourself.
          Where did u get 17 years of dealing with this issue? Many seasoned officers need back up on sometimes “routine” calls. Those officers are in NO way less adequate of a cop. Needing help and asking for it, when needed should be a positive outcome.
          Clearly, in this situation, arresting him was wrong! No one is perfect. Can learn from this experience.

        • tracy

          You have no idea what families have to deal with when they have a child with mental illness. Children grow up, they get bigger and stronger. Keep your comments to yourself because it’s obvious you have no idea what you’re talking about

          • Bob

            Very good answer Tracy. I can’t stand people that comment that have no clue what they’re talking about. Mental health has multiple variables….Michael, you have no clue whatsoever.

    • tracy

      If you have no idea what goes on when trying to take care of a child with mental illness you should keep your opinions to yourself. Parents are trained to contact authorities for help if they need it

  • Tammi

    I absolutely feel the number of wrongful arrests need to be investigated. Not their first rodeo, either. Go back to 2008 and see how many cases were dropped. Nothing is ever done about it and the boys in blue are never held accountable. Worst of the worst!

  • jane mariouw

    the local or county mental health dept under health and human services works closely with law enforcement to intervene in such situations. the family can call ahead to the police and the paramedics to set it up. the police come to assist, but not to arrest.
    assist getting the person into the ambulance and to the ER, psych ER for evaluation.
    parents need to petition the courts before their child turns 18, and fight for guardianship, even just partial guardianship as relates to medical or financial decisions.
    i have had two three friends with mental handicaps and one family member helped in exactly this way.

  • Mel

    I think any parents out there who has a child with an invisible disability should show up to that courtroom in August and SUPPORT this family.

  • Autismmomx4

    Never call the cops. They are not your protectors. Community Mental Health needs to stop putting this in treatment plans until we get some higher quality Barney Fife in Ottawa County.

  • Mark H. Reed

    I’m sure he appreciates you putting his personal business out there too. And I’m sure he appreciates an uninformed media type writing about his “mental capacity”.