Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Sad, Sad Case

by Joyce

Most of you have probably heard about the sad case of the 11-year-old boy who shot and killed his father's pregnant girlfriend--it's been on the national news. The boy has been arrested and charged with criminal homicide, which in Pennsylvania means he is charged as an adult.

When I first heard about this, I felt sorry for the boy, wondering if they could charge him with a lesser offense so he wouldn't have to spend the rest of his life in jail. Did an 11-year-old even know what he was doing?

But as more facts are revealed, I've changed my mind. The boy allegedly covered his own shotgun with a blanket, went to the woman's bedroom and shot her in the head. He then put the gun and blanket back in his room, and He then ran to catch the school bus with the woman's seven year old daughter. As he headed for the bus, he tossed the spent shotgun shell. The district attorney stated, "He took the time to hide what he was doing."

As sad as it is, I can see why they've charged him as an adult. If he were to be charged as a juvenile in Pennsylvania, he could only be held until he's 21. The adult conviction would most likely commit him to prison for life. Could the boy be rehabilitated before he turns 21? Is that a chance anyone wants to take?

One of the difficulties authorities are facing is they basically have nowhere to house the boy. In Pennsylvania, there is no bail for anyone facing a criminal homicide charge. And since he's being charged as an adult, he can't be placed in a juvenile facility. The boy has to be kept isolated and away from the general jail population. In the rural county where he's being held there are no separate facilities for juveniles charged as adults, so authorities are looking for other counties with more experience with juveniles, like Allegheny County.

While I still feel sorry for the boy, I feel worse for the woman's family--and for the boy's father. I read that he keeps saying it had to be an accident. I can understand why he'd think that way. How could any parent admit that their baby could do something like that? The man has essentially lost his entire family--not only the woman he loved and their unborn child, but his son, too.

What do you think of this case? Do you agree that the boy should be charged as an adult? How should communities deal with children who commit heinous crimes, like murder? Can they be rehabilitated, or is there something basic wrong with them that can't be fixed?

Note: The boy is being moved to a juvenile facility. See here for details.


Annette said...

Joyce, this case completely blows my mind. Eleven years old!?!?!

There is just no up side to any aspect of this story. A family has been destroyed and knowing the killer has been caught doesn't make any of it easier for them.

It will be interesting to see how things develop. So many questions. Was the kid troubled? Jealous? Evil? Or a product of a society that markets bloody computer games to kids? I don't know.

Joyce said...

I've heard that the boy was his father's whole world (and somewhat to very spoiled, depending on who is giving their opinion) until the victim and her daughters moved in with them. He didn't like sharing his dad with her.

An 11 year old should have understood the consequences of his actions. When I think back to when my boys were that age, they certainly knew that if they did something wrong, they would be punished. But then, if this boy was as spoiled as I've heard, maybe he'd never been punished for anything before. Maybe he thought he could get away with murder-literally.

Gina said...

This is a truly horrible situation. It seems that the kid was given the gun as a gift -- while I am appalled that anyone would give a deadly weapon to a child, I understand that this is not uncommon in some rural areas, where youngsters grow up around hunting weapons and are supposedly taught gun safety. If the kid has hunted, he knows what a gun can do to a living being, so the fact that he turned one on a woman speaks volumes. I'm not sure what to do with him, except keep him away from the rest of us.
By the way, it's my understanding that the boy was living with his father because his mother has been unable to care for him due to serious illness (cancer), which may have added to his psychological stress.

Sandy Cody said...

I agree that this is a sad, sad case and that there is no easy answer. I don't know if he can be rehabilitated by the time he is 21 - or ever - but, still, in my opinion, an 11-year-old is not an adult and we, as a society, can't afford to give up on him. I don't what should be done. There doesn't seem to be ANY answer - easy or not. Good for you, Joyce, for bringing this up. The only way we will ever solve (or better yet, prevent) situations like this is by the population at large acknowledging that we have some serious problems and that we have to address them. Okay, enough. I'll get off the soapbox. I'm kind of a sucker where kids are concerned.

Dana King said...

I don't like charging juveniles as adults; why have juvenile statutes at all? On the other hand, the high number of incidents that fall into this general category (though this is an extreme example) makes me wonder why state legislatures haven't come up with some kind of blended laws that incporate elements of both juvenile and adult law. We don't want to punish children as adults, but some juvenile offenses (such as this one) were clearly never contemplated when the juvie statutes were written.

Joyce said...

I agree Dana. Because of the state law, the DA had no other choice than to charge him as an adult, or he would have had to charge him with a lesser offense. This case shows that our juvenile laws need a serious overhaul.

Marielena said...

Such a sad story, among so many others today. When these horrific incidents happen, I feel that -- as some of you stated -- the microcosm is reflecting the macrocosm. As long we allow violent images in our movies, TV programs and video games, it’s easy to see why kids are “numb” to right and wrong.

In 1989 the results of a five year study by the American Psychological Association indicated that the average child has witnessed 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence on television by the time he or she has completed sixth grade. That study was conducted 20 years ago, so I can't imagine what those numbers are today!

I’m sure factors other than media violence influenced this boy’s actions. Still, until we take collective action and responsibility for stopping all violence – especially violence against women – more of these stories will be in the headlines.

As to the boy, like most of you, my heart goes out to him.

Gina said...

I overheard a discussion in which someone brought up something I should have thought of -- that gun should have been secured, not in the boy's room with ammunition available. This was the responsibility of the adults in the household -- both his father and the unfortunate victim.