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11/08 - Town stunned as 8-year-old charged in tw

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FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (AP) -- It's a crime that police officers in a small
eastern Arizona community can hardly fathom yet have to deal with: an
8-year-old charged in the fatal shootings of his father and another man."Who would think an 8-year-old kid could kill two adults?" St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick said Friday.The
crime that unfolded Wednesday evening sent shock waves through St.
Johns, a community of about 4,000 people northeast of Phoenix. The boy
had no disciplinary record at school, and there was no indication he
had any problems at home, prosecutors said."It was such a
tragedy," said the boy's defense attorney, Benjamin Brewer. "You have
two people dead; you have an 8-year-old in jail. It tugs at the heart
strings. It's a shocker, no doubt about it."On Friday, a judge
determined there was probable cause to show that the boy fatally shot
his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and Timothy Romans, 39, of San Carlos
with a .22-caliber rifle. The boy faces two counts of premeditated
murder.Melnick said officers arrived at Romero's home within
minutes of the shooting Wednesday. They found one victim just outside
the front door and the other dead in an upstairs room.Romans
had been renting a room at the Romero house, prosecutors said. The two
men were employees with a construction company that had a contract to
do work at the Salt River Project power plant near St. Johns, which is
about 170 miles northeast of Phoenix.The boy went to a
neighbor's house and said he "believed that his father was dead," said
Apache County attorney Brad Carlyon. Police later obtained a confession
from the boy, Melnick said.Brewer said police overreached in
questioning the boy without representation from a parent or attorney
and did not advise him of his rights."They became very accusing
early on in the interview," Brewer said. "Two officers with guns at
their side, it's very scary for anybody, for sure an 8-year-old kid."A judge has ordered a psychological evaluation of the child, who was being held at the Apache County juvenile detention center.Prosecutors aren't sure where the case is headed, Carlyon said."There's
a ton of factors to be considered and weighed, including the juvenile's
age," he said. "The counterbalance against that, the acts that he
apparently committed."Carlyon said the boy had no record of complaints with Arizona Child Protective Services."He had no record of any kind, not even a disciplinary record at school," he said. "He has never been in trouble before."City Manager Greg Martin said the community was "saddened" and "shocked.""Not
something that happens very often and hopefully never happens again,"
he said. "It's been on their minds ever since it happened."FBI
statistics show instances of children younger than 11 committing
homicides are very rare. According to recent FBI supplementary homicide
reports, there were at least three such cases each year in 2003, 2004
and 2005; there were at least 15 in 2002. More recent statistics
weren't available, nor were details of the cases.Earlier this
year in Arizona, prosecutors in Cochise County filed first-degree
murder charges against a 12-year-old boy accused of shooting his mother
to death.Under Arizona law, a juvenile under 8 years old is
treated as a dependent child. Charges can be filed against anyone 8 or
older, which Melnick argued are warranted in this case. He said the
child didn't act on the "spur of the moment," though he didn't
elaborate on what the motive might have been.Defense attorney
Mike Piccarreta, who is not involved in the case, said each case has to
be considered on its own merits, but it would be hard for him to
comprehend that an 8-year-old has the mental capacity to understand the
act of murder and its implications."If they actually prosecute
the guy, it's a legal minefield," he said. "And, two, society has to
make a decision as to whether they want to start using the criminal
justice system to deal with 8-year-olds. That doesn't mean you don't
have a troubled kid."Wednesday's homicides were the first in at
least four years in the community where most people know one another,
Melnick said, noting that before that, no one had been killed there
since 20 years ago.Romero had full custody of the child. The
boy's biological mother was visiting St. Johns over the weekend from
Mississippi, and returned to Arizona after the shootings, Carlyon said.Brewer, the defense attorney, said the child "seems to be in good spirits.""He's scared," he said. "He's trying to be tough, but he's scared."
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9/4/2015 8:39:36 AM UTC