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."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tomlin: Possible Steelers midseason surge won’t come easy vs. Colts
- 7 in custody after New Kensington drug raid
- Beechview man arrested on child pornography charges
- Judge makes August Wilson center sale official
- Turnpike accident kills 1
- 8 selected thus far for jury in Ferrante trial
- GCC’s Zambruno wins PIAA golf title
- Rookie Bryant sparks deep passing game for Steelers in victory
- North Catholic High School principal steps down
- Amid struggles, top fiscal executive to leave EDMC
- Hundreds mourn Pittsburgh trash collector killed by gunfire