LIBERTY Twp., Ohio -- Now confined to the first floor of her two-story Liberty Township home, Sharon Simon has just finished knitting at her dining room table.
“It’s been very lonely not having Mitchell around,” she said of her 16-year-old son.
Her entryway is blocked — the staircase is draped in plastic tarps, and her upstairs belongings are now downstairs as crews prepare to tear out and repair the fire-damaged second story of her home.
“I just try to pass the time,” Simon said.
The mother found out Wednesday that two attempted murder charges and an aggravated arson charge would stand against her teenage son, Mitchell Simon. He is accused of trying to kill her and his father inside their Tarragon Court home.
“I don’t believe it,” his mother said, who now visits her son three times a week at the juvenile detention center in Hamilton. “I know my son. I’m his mom.”
Police say the Lakota West honors student tied a rope around the doorknob of his mother’s bedroom door so she and his father couldn’t escape when he set their house on fire.
Investigators say they found records and journals written by the teen depicting how he was going to set fire to the home. The journal included information on how he would tie the door shut to his parents’ bedroom so they couldn’t escape.
Family Stands Behind Him
The Simon family’s November courtroom reunion showed early signs of unconditional support, despite the attempted murder charges against their son.
“All I cared about was having contact with him — being able to hold him and to tell him I loved him,” said the mother.
The teen embraced his mother tight in court, and the two openly wept while standing next to his father, Perry Simon, who broke his ankle when he jumped from the second floor of the family’s burning home. The family had just received news the teen would be tried as an adult.
The raw moment between Mitchell and his family in court was a stark contrast from the teen Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones accused of concocting a “cold, calculated plot” to kill his mom and dad.
“You love your child no matter what," Simon said. "It’s that unconditional love, and I know what the charges are but it doesn’t mean they are true. I don’t think a lot of them are true."
'I did not hear his voice'
Simon said she was asleep in her bedroom when the fire alarm sounded the night of Oct. 23.
“This was just really kind of out of the blue,” she said. “It never once crossed my mind that anybody in this house was responsible for it.”
Simon said she refused to leave the home until she knew her son and husband were safe.
“I knew that Perry had gotten out of the house, but I did not hear Mitchell’s voice.” she said. “As many times as I yelled for him, I did not hear his voice, and I did not leave my home without him.”
The mother revealed few specific details from that night since the case is still on-going, but it was hours after firefighters helped her exit the home that police told her they believed her son was to blame.
“I don’t believe what I was told,” she said. “Because no matter what, in any family, you’re going to have arguments over this and arguments over that — especially with teenagers — but the image they were trying to portray? And that’s what I told them: ‘I don’t believe you.’”
For days, Simon was lost -- tending to her husband in the hospital, taking care of the damage to their home and trying to navigate what would happen to her son.
"Where do we go? What do we do? What do we do next? Never being a part of the court system for any reason, you don't know what to do. You don't really know who to contact. You don't know what to do about your house," said Simon.
It was 10 days before the family was allowed to see their son again.
“All I could think of was that’s my son and he’s locked up and I can’t get to him. I can’t get to him to comfort him. I can’t tell him I love him. I can’t tell him I’m near him,” she said. “Not only are you trying to cope with it, but you just feel hopeless.”
For the family with no prior experience navigating the court system, their reunion was quite the shock.
“To go into a court room and have your son walk out, you know, the clothing that they wear — it was just unreal," Simon said. "It was just like, ‘This is a dream. Please let this be a dream and let me wake up and let this not be for real.'"
In His Mother's Eyes
Simon said Mitchell does not have a history of behavioral problems.
"He's the type of person who is very sympathetic and would give you a coat if you didn't have a coat," she said.
She likened her relationship with her son to that of any parent-teenager bond.
"As he got older, obviously hanging out with mom and dad wasn't the thing to do," she said.
She said she spent time with Mitchell, going to their favorite restaurants, playing board games and watching movies. However, his favorite thing to do was hang out with his friends.
"Mitchell is a typical teenager," Simon said. "He loves us and wants to please, but he wants to please friends also.
He wants to be liked and wants people to like him."
She said the honor student played tuba in his school's marching band. He likes playing sports and aspires to be a crime scene investigator.
"He had so many colleges writing him to send in applications to their schools," she said."He has a lot of talent and he has a lot that he can offer, that he can give to society, to people that he comes in contact with. He's a fun kid."
Visits With Her Son
The teen’s parents visit their son at the juvenile detention center about three times a week. The visits are supervised, and the family is not permitted to talk to their son about anything related to his case.
“It’s very awkward,” Simon said. “There’s not a whole lot to talk about. You know, ‘The weather is this,’ ‘The dogs are doing this,’ ‘This is what’s going on in the world.'”
And that means months have gone by without answers.
“I don’t know the full story on his part. I just don’t know his thoughts because we can’t ask him,” she said. “But I am more concerned with how he is. I am more concerned with, ‘Are you eating? Are you sleeping? Are you taking care of yourself?’
She said Mitchell’s response is always: “I want to come home.”
“There were times at the beginning that it was difficult to visit him because… he would hug me, and I knew I had to leave,” she said. “But I can’t tear myself away from my son because he won’t let me leave… All I can do is get out as fast as I can before I break down.”
Despite the fact that their son faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted on attempted murder charges, the Simons are hopeful he'll come back home.
"I think when he gets home it will just be more of, 'Where do we go from here? What do we need to do to continue to support you to get you back on track so you can see that you have a future," said his mother.
Left with more questions than answers about that night, Simon's biggest fear is what's in store for her son's future.
"It would be a shame that, you know, we all make mistakes. We all do stuff that we wish we hadn't done and for him this is a big thing," she said. "But how much will it stand in his way? How much of it will he have to pay for it?"
WCPO reporters Jay Warren and Maxim Alter contributed to this report.