There were signs of trouble...
...as early as age 12. Probably earlier, if you ask his mother. But at 12 years old the red flags started flying. Luke was suspended from school three times before Christmas- It was his 6th grade year. The suspensions weren’t for fighting, he was not violent, he just acted out to get attention. For example, he used some bad language in an English class writing exercise; he called it creative writing. Another of his suspensions came after he and another kid were roaming the halls after school and they thought it would be funny if they pulled the fire alarm. The third suspension was different. Luke was in gym class waiting with the other boys and girls for the coach to come out of his office. A boy in the class yanked the pants down on a couple of the girls. So Luke thought he would return the favor. As is often the case, the second perpetrator is the one that gets caught, and so was the case this time.
Luke’s mom and dad decided to home-school him and his siblings, so they pulled them all out of public school. He hated the idea of being at home all day and resisted more than any of his siblings. This might be why his parents took him to see a psychiatrist. They thought he needed medication for depression. He was not prescribed the depression medication at that time, but a couple of years later he was prescribed Prozac. It wasn’t the fix they were hoping for. About 6 months after being pulled out of school, Luke’s family moved from Minnesota to the California desert. He was now 13.
The stay in southern California was short, like everywhere else to that point.
The family moved again; this time to Edmond Oklahoma. It was the fall of 1995 and his parents decided to send their kids back to public school. Not more than a few minutes in that school and Luke realized he did not fit in again. So what does an outcast do? Find other outcasts and nare-do-wells. There were fights, drugs, and other illicit activities. He finished 10th grade, barely, and was one month into his junior year when he made a decision that he says changed the entire trajectory of his life.
Breaking into another kid's house...
...was a way Luke thought he could get back at someone who owed him money. He was looking for a pistol. He was tired of Oklahoma and wanted to run back to California. He thought having the gun would help get money and transportation that would get him back to the Coast. Luke left school after the first period, walked the couple blocks to the house, and broke in through the master bedroom window. Once inside, Luke struggled to find what he was looking for. There was no rational train of thought, he simply wanted a gun, and knew there were some in the house. All he found was a shot-gun which was too big to fit in the gym bag that he carried with all his clothes. He took the gun to the garage looking for a saw to chop the barrel off. The gun still did not fit. In his irritation he spotted a gas can and instantly decided to burn the house down. As mentioned, there was no rational thought process. He did not consider the fact that a family lived there or how many people would be impacted by his reaction. He just poured the gas and lit the flame. He was arrested several hours later after linking up with some friends and having an all-day-smoke session. He often wonders how his life would be different if he had just stayed in school that day.
That crime sent him to the Berry House (Juvenile Detention) for a few months. The family whose house was burned declined to press charges; though that act of mercy was lost on Luke. He was only sentenced to less than a year of probation. He was not allowed to return home so he went to a group home until a man and woman agreed to let him live with them. Thoughts of a high school diploma were over, and he went ahead and took the GED test.