Lawrence County boy's homicide case may be retried
A Lawrence County boy who was 11 when police charged him with fatally shooting his father's pregnant fiancée might soon be retried.
The state Superior Court on Wednesday vacated a juvenile court judge's decision that Jordan Brown was responsible for killing Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, and her unborn baby as she watched television while lying in bed in February 2009.
Judge John Hodge last year ruled Brown delinquent, the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict. The appeals court sent the case back to juvenile court, writing that Hodge's decision was “clearly contrary to the evidence.”
At issue was whether prosecutors proved that only Brown and his two young stepsisters were in the house when Houk was killed, making them the only possible shooters. Hodge ruled they were, based on testimony from a tree-cutter who said he saw only the kids' footprints in fresh snow on the driveway.
That did not discount the possibility of footprints elsewhere on the property, the Superior Court said.
“The juvenile court appears to have mistakenly concluded that no footprints existed based upon the absence of any testimony regarding the condition of the snow,” the ruling states.
Brown's attorney, Dennis Elisco, said he and co-defender Stephen Colafella are “trying to figure out what our options are” and whether a retrial will be scheduled.
Houk's mother, Deb Houk, said her family is “definitely upset.”
“I'm tired of it, all of it,” she said. “He did it. And now I've got a daughter buried at 26 and a baby buried with her.”
Houk and her husband, Jack Houk, are raising Kenzie's daughters.
Brown has been held at a juvenile facility since last year.
His father, Chris Brown, could not be reached. He drove to see his son on Wednesday, Elisco said.
“He's elated,” Elisco said. “He is very emotional.”
Authorities initially charged Jordan Brown as an adult. His age and the grisly nature of the crime drew international attention as the case worked its way through the legal system for three years.
Under Hodge's ruling, Brown cannot be held past his 21st birthday but could be released sooner.
Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.