Judge to determine if boy accused in crime spree will be charged as adult

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– A 15-year-old accused of a cross-county crime spree that included murder was accused of stealing guns from his family’s house and failing previous juvenile probation programs.

Juvenile Judge Marilyn Moores concluded a waiver hearing to determine if the boy should be tried as an adult.

The Pike High School student was arrested Feb. 13 after a crime wave that included several armed robberies and vehicle thefts, the shooting of a man walking his dog and the murder of a man in his Southport driveway.

The boy is accused of being the wheelman for Sirquain Burr, 18, who investigators think pulled the trigger, killing John Yingling.

A police chase ended with a crash on West 56th Street in Hendricks County following the shootings.

Dr. James Dalton testified that he conducted a psychological evaluation of the boy in March. He said the teenager is of below average intelligence, has poor decision making and risk-assessment skills and exhibits anti-social behavior.

The boy reads at a 3rd-grade level, had never been assigned a specialized education program and likely suffers from an attention deficit disorder.

Judge Moores, who must decide if the boy will be tried in the juvenile or adult system and sentenced accordingly, asked if the teen is more vulnerable to poor decision making even if he receives training and counseling.

Dalton said the boy would “always struggle” with such decision making.

IMPD Detective Marcus Kennedy testified that bullets and shell casings recovered from the scenes of both shootings matched the .380 caliber handgun tossed from the stolen vehicle during the chase. Kennedy said the younger teen admitted his role in the crime spree in a taped statement.

Jennette Whattley, a juvenile probation officer assigned to Pike High School, said the boy was failing to comply with counseling and home detention orders following a 2012 complaint regarding criminal mischief.

In January, less than a month before the fatal crime spree, the teen was arrested for vehicle theft, criminal trespass and receiving stolen property and place on home therapy and 30 days of electronic monitoring.

The boy’s mother told Whattley that her son was leaving the house in violation of monitoring rules, was defiant, didn’t attend counseling and stole several guns from the family home.

If Judge Moores assigns the boy’s case to juvenile court, and he’s convicted, he could serve his sentence in the Indiana Department of Corrections Pendleton Juvenile Facility until the eve of his 21st birthday. If the teen is waived over to the criminal system, and he’s convicted, he would be sentenced to serve the first part of this term in the juvenile facility at the Wabash Correctional Facility and then placed in the prison’s general population before he turns 20 years old.

Tim Hanlon of IDOC testified that 44 youth currently serve their terms in the Wabash juvenile unit and most will continue anti-social behavior once they are transferred to the general population.  Such offenders receive education, mental health and religious counseling while housed in the juvenile unit.

Christine Leffinger of IDOC testified that approximately 200 young offenders are housed in the Pendleton juvenile facility, most of them 15- and 16-years-old. Leffinger said the Pendleton juveniles traditionally have a 34 percent recidivism rate and return to incarceration.

During a break in testimony, deputy prosecutor Gregory Spencer said the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office believes that the teen has run out of second chances to be treated as a juvenile.

“Certainly we filed the motion for the waiver and feel it is appropriate that this juvenile face trial as an adult,” Spencer said. “I think the juvenile system has exhausted all the resources that have been used to address this individual.”

During the afternoon session, the boy’s mother testified that her son was failing at school and was defiant to his family.

“You know you make this seem like it’s been going on for years,” said defense attorney Kenneth Riggins. “It hasn’t. He got his first case last July and since then he’s been on track, but, he’s like anyone else, he should get a second chance. That’s what America’s about.”

In closing arguments, deputy prosecutor Tracy Fitz told Judge Moores that the boy was involved in several felonies and had proven himself beyond rehabilitation.

Riggins is expected to argue in a written closing statement that the child is a good candidate for rehabilitation.

Judge Moores remarked that the waiver portion of the case has already taken too long and she expects to make a timely ruling which could mean by the end of the week.

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