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9-year-old stowaway ordered to live away from parents, receive therapy

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The 9-year-old boy who eluded security officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and sneaked aboard a Delta flight to Las Vegas two weeks ago must live away from his parents while they all undergo therapy, a judge ordered Wednesday.

A hearing was held Wednesday afternoon based on a petition filed last Friday by Hennepin County officials seeking protection or county services for the boy, who reportedly has a history of behavioral problems, said county attorney's office spokesman Chuck Lasczewski.

The judge assigned to the case ordered therapy for the unidentified boy and his family, who have received national attention after Delta crew members discovered the unaccompanied minor on an Oct. 3 flight to Sin City.

The boy's parents will be allowed liberal visitation privileges and phone contact with their son during his stay at a county facility, the judge ruled. The boy did not appear in the Twin Cities courtroom Wednesday.

At an Oct. 9 news conference, the boy's father said the family has repeatedly sought help for their son, but their attempts were hampered.

At the time of his fateful flight to Las Vegas, the boy was on an extended suspension from school for a fight, his father said. 

The boy is not an "honor student," the father said, and "had his ups, he had his downs."

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The petition filed by county officials said the boy has serious behavioral problems, Lasczewski said. He has allegedly stolen a truck and frequently runs away from home.

At the Oct. 9 news conference, the boy’s father, wearing a baggy sweatshirt pulled over his head, seemed to allude to the car theft.

“Last incident, I hate to say it, but when he damaged those cars, I didn’t know what was going through my son’s head. I just hope and pray that nobody gets hurt, and it could have been worse than it is,” the father said. “He told the police officer he thought he was playing Grand Theft Auto.”

The young boy was screened at security during the initial leg of his trip before boarding the flight undetected, said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. 

Hogan said security footage showed the 9-year-old “waited until the person who was at the gate was busy, and that’s when he got on the plane.”

The Transportation Security Administration released a statement that read: “The child was screened along with all other passengers to ensure that he was not a threat to the aircraft."

A source close to the investigation told NBC News that the boy told a flight attendant his parents were sitting in the back of the plane, but Hogan said the flight crew became suspicious at some point during the flight when they realized the boy “wasn't on the roster” of children traveling alone.

When the plane landed, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police and Child Protective Services took the boy into custody and arranged his return to Minneapolis, Hogan said.

The next court date in the case is Nov. 20. 

NBC News’ Elisha Fieldstadt, Becky Bratu, Matthew DeLuca and Jay Blackman contributed to this report.

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