In September 2002, when he was 14-years-old, Robert Hawkins became a ward of the State of Nebraska through Sarpy County Juvenile Court. Previously, he had been placed in a Missouri treatment facility for making threats against his stepmother’s life. When his father’s insurance would no longer cover his stay at the facility, they found it best to seek State care, as it was determined Robert would continue to be a threat if he returned home.
Hawkins attempted suicide in January 2006 by swallowing 30 pills of Tylenol and told the social worker that he wanted to die after waking up in the emergency room. He also told her he never wanted to go through something like that again. Later that year on August 21, he was allowed to walk away from state-mandated care. Three days before his release, his father wrote in an e-mail: “I think the only thing that will work is for him to learn it the hard way. He will have to stand or fall on his own to learn these lessons about life. It is beyond my ability and I have to release him to God, praying that He will make sure that nothing happens to him that cannot be undone.”
After learning Robert was responsible for the murder of eight people before committing suicide at Westroads Mall, a juvenile Sarpy County prosecutor said this about his treatment and release: “There was really nothing more that we could offer him that he was willing to participate in.” An attorney for the same county also said: “They invested a lot of time and effort and determined he’s not going to respond. I suspect, maybe pessimistically many people in the case thought at the time ‘we’ll see him again.’ I hate to say that, but we do that everyday.”