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Sky Walker watches recordings of "The Price is Right" over and over again on a TV positioned just outside his jail cell, a calming ritual for the autistic teenager, who is prone to erratic behavior swings when his routine is changed.


He also gets his favorite barbecue potato chips, and visitors have been allowed to bring him McDonald's Happy Meals — an attempt to keep his environment as normal as it can be as he awaits a decision on whether he is competent to stand trial in his mother's fatal beating.

Walker, 18, is charged with murdering his long-doting mother, Gertrude Steuernagel, a professor at Kent State University who once wrote publicly about having to cope with her son's aggressive behavior. She was found unconscious in their kitchen Jan. 29 and died eight days later.

The case has posed special challenges to the justice system from the start; Walker had to wear a face mask at an initial court appearance to prevent him from spitting at deputies.

The case has also worried advocates, like Rory McLean, president of the Autism Society of Greater Cleveland, who fear that Walker's actions — he was found cowering in the basement when sheriff's deputies responded to the home — could be misinterpreted.

Walker, who has a court-appointed guardian, is due to be arraigned Friday on the murder charge but both sides agreed he did not have to appear in court. He is also charged with assaulting a deputy who investigated the beating. No pleas have yet been entered on his behalf.


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