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Jordan Brown released from juvenile detention

| Monday, June 13, 2016, 11:36 p.m.

A Lawrence County teenager accused of killing his father's pregnant fiancee when he was 11 no longer is behind bars, according to the victim's mother.

Jordan Brown, 18, had been in custody since his arrest in the shooting death of Kenzi Marie Houk, 26, and her unborn baby in 2009. Prosecutors said Houk was lying in bed when Brown put a shotgun to the back of her head and killed her.

Brown has always maintained his innocence, his attorney, Dennis A. Elisco, has said.

Debra Houk, Kenzi's mother, said Brown was released Monday after a court hearing to determine whether he had been rehabilitated. Houk declined to comment further.

Elisco said Tuesday he cannot discuss the hearing because it was conducted in juvenile court, but described the ruling as “favorable.”

He said Brown, now 18, graduated from high school last weekend and “it was pretty clear that he is fully rehabbed and no further treatment was needed.”

Brown will begin college in the late summer/fall at a Western Paennsylvania university, Elisco said. He declined to say which one.

Elisco is still asking the court that Brown be acquitted, based on “insufficient evidence,” or that he be granted a new trial. He did not say when Brown is due back in court.

Brown originally was charged as an adult, but his case was moved to juvenile court in 2012. A judge ruled him delinquent, the equivalent of a guilty verdict.

In 2013, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty. A year later, the state Supreme Court agreed and sent the case back to the trial court.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge John W. Hodge reconsidered the evidence and denied a request for a new hearing last year, prompting Brown to appeal.

His lawyers have argued that the evidence does not rule out the possibility that someone else entered the house in the 45 minutes that lapsed between the time Brown and another child caught a school bus and the arrival of a tree-cutting crew that discovered the crime scene.

Last month, Elisco argued before a three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Pittsburgh that prosecutors did not provide adequate evidence to show that Brown used his shotgun on the day of the murder.

He argued that the trial judge in the case “inappropriately” considered the same evidence to make new findings and deny an appeal last year.

Brown remained in juvenile custody as the appeals continued. The state could not hold him beyond his 21st birthday.

Staff writer Chris Togneri contributed to this report. Tony Raap is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at traap@tribweb.com.

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