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Boy held in killing in denial, psychiatrist testifies

A 12-year-old Lawrence County boy charged with homicide refuses to take responsibility for his actions and has "significant issues," a prosecution psychiatrist told a judge Friday.

"His chances of amenability are very limited because of his tendency to minimize, deny and shift blame," said Dr. John S. O'Brien II, a lawyer and psychiatrist from Philadelphia. "In order to be rehabilitated, you have to take responsibility for your behavior. ... He is not even able to take that first step."

Common Pleas Judge Dominick Motto is trying to determine whether Jordan Brown should face trial as an adult or in juvenile court for the February 2009 shooting deaths of his father's pregnant fiancee, Kenzie Marie Houk, and her unborn child, Christopher. Police say Brown placed a shotgun to the back of Houk's head as she lay in bed in the family's New Galilee home, shot her and then left the house to get on the school bus.

O'Brien testified Brown was evasive and pretended not to understand questions when he interviewed the boy at an Erie juvenile facility last month. Brown's ability to be treated is a key factor in determining whether the case is moved to juvenile court.

Defense attorney Dennis Elisco dismissed the prosecution argument as "ridiculous."

"According to them, the only way Jordan can be treated is if he admits to the crime. That makes no sense. It's illogical," Elisco said.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney David Acker, O'Brien said the brain is not fully developed in a child that young, including the part that controls decision-making.

During a January hearing, Dr. Kirk Heilbrun, head of psychology at Drexel University, testified for the defense that he examined Brown for several hours and concluded the boy can be rehabilitated. He said Brown poses a low threat of committing another violent crime.

Acker and Elisco said Brown should be tried as a juvenile, sheltered from the news media "frenzy" surrounding his hearings and in a system that focuses on rehabilitation, rather than incarceration. Motto has until April 1 to rule.

If Brown is convicted of first-degree murder as an adult, he would spend life in prison. If he is tried as a juvenile, the state could not hold him beyond his 21st birthday.

"If they came to me and said, 'Jordan Brown did this, what can we do?' -- I'm willing to explore all options," said Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony J. Krastek. "They haven't done that. They're the ones rolling the dice. My conscience is clear."

Acker and Elisco said they asked state police to investigate a report that one of Houk's ex-boyfriends was overheard at a party confessing to the slayings. State police Trooper Jeffrey Martin said all tips are investigated and the investigation "is always ongoing." He testified that lab tests show a shell casing found outside the family farmhouse was fired from Brown's 20-gauge shotgun.

Brown's father, Christopher Brown, did not speak to reporters.

Houk's family said the hearings are taking a toll.

"It's just a horrible thing, having to come back to this courthouse," said Jennifer Kraner, Houk's sister. "We have to continue to just deal with this, and it's hard. It's hard."

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