Some of you have undoubtedly already seen news that an eight year old boy in Arizona is suspected of killing his father and another man renting a room in their home last Wednesday, November 5, 2008.
By all accounts, he was a good boy. No problems in school. No disruptions in his religious education classes at St. Johns Catholic Church, where he was to mark his First Communion this year.
So the police and neighbors in the 8-year-old’s small eastern Arizona community are at a loss to explain why he would have used a .22-caliber rifle to kill his father and another man at their home.
"That child, I don’t think he knows what he did, and it was brutal," said the family priest, the Very Reverend John Paul Sauter.
The police said the boy killed his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and another man, Timothy Romans, 39, on Wednesday. The men worked together, and Romans had been renting a room at the house, prosecutors said.
While not unheard of in criminal justice, this type of homicide by children, especially those under age 14, is pretty rare. Which makes the following the real story in this case.
The boy, who faces two counts of premeditated murder, did not act on the spur of the moment, St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick said … He just doesn’t decide one day that he’s going to shoot his father and shoot his father’s friend for no reason. Something led up to this." … On Friday, a judge ordered a psychological evaluation of the boy. Under Arizona law, charges can be filed against anyone 8 or older.
In a sign of the emotional and legal complexities of the case, the police are pushing to have the boy tried as an adult even as they investigate possible abuse, Melnick said. If convicted as a minor, the boy could be sent to juvenile detention until he turns 18.
The reason that there exists in US criminal justice a bifurcated system with minors handled in the juvenile system and adults in the traditional system is the time honored belief that minors do not possess the brain development, both physical and psychological, to allow them to form the requisite intent and properly understand the consequences of their actions. Thus minors charged with crimes, even serious and violent felonies, have traditionally been tried and processed as juveniles, which provides the ability to incarcerate and rehabilitate the defendant up until they reach the age of majority, 18 years old. Read more