ROXBURY, NJ – Two 15-year-old Roxbury boys with behavioral problems ran away from a residential facility last Friday and their relatives are asking for tips about their whereabouts.
The boys, Jason Stevens and Matthew Canfield, left the Bonnie Brae residential school for boys in Basking Ridge on Aug. 10, said Stevens’ grandmother, Annette Vilagos, and Canfield’s mother, Darlene Canfield. They said police are aware of the situation and have issued a be-on-the-lookout bulletin.
Vilagos, of Landing, said she has full custody of Jason and his sisters. She said the teen began getting into trouble about two years ago, dabbling in drugs and engaging in bad behavior.
“He’s disappeared before,” she said. “But it’s been a lot different lately. Jason’s been saving up. He’s been hiding money. Jason has a couple thousand dollars hidden somewhere. He’s been dealing pot, finagling this and that, selling his belongings.”
Canfield said she last spoke with Matthew on Friday. She said her son – who has been “grieving angrily” since the death of his father four years ago – seemed happy during the conversation and showed no sign he planned to run off.
“We set up an appointment for me to visit Saturday,” she said. "He asked me to bring deodorant. At the end (of the conversation) he said, `I’m fine. I love you.’”
The boys were at Bonnie Brae as part of court-ordered probation, meaning that they will now face serious consequences when they are found, said the adults. “Matt’s probably going to be sent to (The New Jersey Training School at) Jamesburg,” said Canfield. “This is his second violation of probation. He left another program and they wouldn’t take him back.”
Although the boys were not permitted to have cell phones at Bonnie Brae, they somehow have been sending messages through social media. “We believe they must have bought a cell phone,” Vilagos said. “Matt has been Snapchattng stuff … I’ve been getting Instagrams.”
Canfield said a message to “Tell mom I love her” was one sent by her son.
Both boys attended Eisenhower Middle School in Roxbury and they were supposed to start high school last year but instead were directed to Bonnie Brae, which describes itself as “a safe place for boys and young men in crisis, ages 8-21.”
A spokesman for the school did not immediately return a message left on Monday.
Vilagos and Canfield said he youths are big for their ages and can pass for being significantly older than 15.
“Jason was an incredible football player,” said his grandmother, noting his skill allowed him to play with older kids. “You’d think that would be a great thing; that he can have a really great career playing football,” Vilagos said. “But all of a sudden, he started doing drugs with the older kids. Now he’s on pills. That’s what we think.”
She said she always reminded the boy that, despite his bad behavior, she loved him. “When I’m with him, I usually say to him, ‘Grandma would jump in front of a train for you and would crawl away and jump in front of the train again,’” she said.
Anyone with information about the boys is asked to call Roxbury police at (973) 448-2100.