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Clairton teen charged in death of elderly neighbor

| Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

A Clairton teenager charged in the fatal beating and stabbing of an elderly neighbor should be sent to juvenile court for treatment, a defense psychiatrist told an Allegheny County judge on Wednesday.

Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski is expected to conclude hearings this morning on whether Johnie Washington, 17, should be prosecuted as an adult or a juvenile for the Oct. 6, 2007, slaying of Florence Ranta, 82, inside her home. Washington lived less than 100 yards away.

"Homicide is a crime that's very unlikely to be repeated again," testified Dr. Robert Wettstein, noting that Washington had mental-health problems and used drugs and alcohol.

Assistant District Attorney Steven Stadtmiller, though, contends that Washington should be tried as an adult.

"Clearly he has a history of violent behavior. My opinion is that he's not amenable to treatment within the time frame of the juvenile-court system," testified Dr. Bruce Wright, a prosecution witness.

Washington could remain incarcerated only until his 21st birthday if the case would be sent to juvenile court.

Sasinoski is expected to rule within two weeks.

Stadtmiller said investigators found Washington's thumbprint on Ranta's phone and that her phone cord had been cut. Police found a brick and a knife with Ranta's blood on it in weeds about four houses away. Investigators also found Ranta's blood on shoes in Washington's home.

Investigators also found Washington's fingerprints inside Ranta's car, which police said he stole after killing her, Stadtmiller said.

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