March 29th, 2010
01:18 PM ET

Judge nixes killing suspect's transfer to juvenile court

A judge in Pennsylvania has denied a request from a 12-year-old killing suspect to have his case transferred to juvenile court.

The boy is facing adult charges in the shooting death of his father's pregnant girlfriend, and a judge turned down a petition to have the case transferred from criminal court to juvenile court.

Police say the boy, who was age 11 at the time of the February 2009 incident, shot Kenzie Marie Houk, who was eight months pregnant, once at point-blank range in her farmhouse in western Pennsylvania.

The boy, whose name was withheld by CNN because he is a juvenile, was charged with one count each of criminal homicide and homicide of an unborn child in the death of Houk, 26, Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo told CNN.

Houk's 4-year-old daughter found her in her bed, according to police. The child alerted landscapers working near the home, who then called authorities.

"This is something that you wouldn't even think of in your worst nightmare; that you'd have to charge an 11-year-old with homicide," Bongiveng said, according to CNN affiliate WTAE. "It's heinous, the whole situation."

Under Pennsylvania law, anyone over the age of 10 accused of murder or homicide is charged as an adult. If convicted, the boy faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, Bongivengo said.

Authorities said the boy is the son of the victim's live-in boyfriend at the home in Wampum, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

"At this point, we don't believe it's accidental," Bongivengo said.

The weapon was a youth model 20-gauge shotgun, designed for use by children, that belonged to the boy, according to investigators.

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Filed under: Justice
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Ali

    An 11 year old does not have the same mental capacity as an adult, it's an unfair situation to judge him as though he does. clearly he needs treatment and help in order to rehabilitate him, otherwise, he will just end up someone's toy in prison. the point of prison is not to warehouse people, and certainly not children. If you don't believe that children have different mental capacities, then up the drinking age, driving age, and send 'em all to war!

    March 29, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ave

      The prison system is slowly becoming a warehouse for all who dare cross the line of justice. With privitization of prisons education is being budgeted and prisons and increasing. It's becoming a warehouse for cheap labor, that's why they make it so comfortable, so they have no problem coming back.

      June 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just Me

      Unfortunately, many of the gangs use children to commit murder because they know that the child will receive a lesser sentence than they would. But, the victim is still dead no matter how old the murderer is! We need to reach the children before they resort to this level of violence.

      June 18, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Renee

      If you do an adult crime you deserve a adult sentence – how does he not know what he was doing when he shot her point blank? Even at 11 you know that someone will die if you shoot them.

      June 18, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Val

    This was a fair and proper decision on the judge's part and I am happy to see that it's time for "children" such as this to be held accountable. Murderers are becoming younger and younger and this MUST be addressed. Otherwise, if he were tried as a juvenile, any kid who thought about committing murder would think that they would be out by the time they were 21 and some would think that that would be a fair trade for eliminating someone out of their life that they don't like.

    March 29, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mace

      Seriously? You think some eleven year old is going to go out and research and decide, "ooh, all kids can do it"? If the kid was sharp enough to research the subject then by all means, try the little turd and fry him when you're done. The average 11 year old is not thinking, "yay, I can get away with murder"

      June 2, 2010 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. Steven Sanders

    This boy is still a child. Therefore PA law is basically child abuse. Remember, science has told us in the last 20 years that a child under the age of 15 does not have the brain circuitry to make real moral judgments. Assertions that a child can be held to the same standards as an adult are medieval at best. This whole thing is tragic, however the judge and prosecutors in this case are exercising further abuse of a child...even a child accused of a crime. Abusing children because they may have done something bad is still child abuse.

    March 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      Sociopaths are NOT rehabilitable-EVER. These " child monsters" must be incarcerated-FOREVER!!! They WILL kill again!!!

      June 19, 2010 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. fordva

    Science, mental capacity…blah, blah, blah. If the deceased were your mother, sister or aunt, I suspect you'd be singing a different tune. While this story is heart-breaking, let us not forget a life (two) was lost at the hands of an 11 year old that knew a gun would kill. The adult charges should stand but counseling and therapy are in order. And yes, I do have a children.

    March 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dudeman

      I do have a children?

      June 2, 2010 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Hakim Okot

      How many "childs" does you have?

      June 2, 2010 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. Armando de Jesus

    This was an 11 year old child. They do not understand the concept of death. Another question is why do these children have easy access to weapons. I do own a gun but it has a trigger lock, it is locked in a gun safe and I keep the keys with me.

    March 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jo

    @Armando – I have a 4-year-old who knows that guns kill people. The excuse that an 11-year-old doesn't know better is exactly that – an excuse. This kid should be put away for life.

    March 29, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raymond Flournoy

      If a 4-year old knows it's wrong to kill people, then maybe we should put 4, 5, and 6 year old kids in prison for life for murder, maybe even subject them to the death penalty?

      June 18, 2010 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Wxwoman50

    What about locking up the ADULT WHO BOUGHT HIM THE GUN as well??? I think that person is partially responsible for these deaths too!! Maybe if a few "examples" were made by putting the gun BUYER on trial for a crime because the gun was used in the commission of a felony, the morons who want to buy guns for kids would think twice about it. There's a completely relaxed culture surrounding guns that is promoted by the NRA and this is just another instance of the danger of that organization's views.

    June 2, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      Blah, blah!!! The " child" knows somethings are correct, and somthings are not!!!! Otherwise, we would see these " children" running around naked, defecating on the sidewalks, urinating on people, etc. Wait, we already have these " gang wannabees" already doing that-SORRY!!!!! BTW, would any of you feel better if the victim were killed by a hatchet???? What a bunch of nammbie, limpwrists here!!! Execute the little bas###d, will CERTAIINLY prevent recidivism!!!!!!

      June 19, 2010 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. Hakim Okot

    The weapon should have been trigger locked or in a gun locker.

    June 2, 2010 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. smartiepops

    The child OWNED A GUN??? Are you kidding me? So let me get this straight, you give a child who does not understand the concept of death (even if you tell them guns kill people...they see on TV that people who "die" are still around) and who doesn't yet know how to make a moral judgment a deadly weapon?? Something is SERIOUSLY wrong here.

    June 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Random

      Yes, the kid owned a gun. His father is an avid hunter and he was raising his son to be a hunter. He just didn't think that his son would hunt his girlfriend.

      June 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bill

    While it is true an 11 yr old does not have the same moral judgement capabilities as adults, they do understand tat guns kill and that death is forever. Anyone who believes they don't understand this has never been around an 11 yr old or doesn't remember when they were that age. They may not fully understand the consequences THEY will suffer for committing murder but they certainly know the consequences of their victim. Whether the suspect is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system is an issue that I feel should be examined on each individual case and decided by the courts and not the lawmakers. I do, however feel the negligence of the parent should be held accountable

    June 17, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bill

    While it is true an 11 yr old does not have the same moral judgement capabilities as adults, they do understand that guns kill and that death is forever. Anyone who believes they don't understand this has never been around an 11 yr old or doesn't remember when they were that age. They may not fully understand the consequences THEY will suffer for committing murder but they certainly know the consequences of their victim. Whether the suspect is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system is an issue that I feel should be examined on each individual case and decided by the courts and not the lawmakers. I do, however feel the parent's negligence for allowing access to the weapon unsupervised is criminal and should be treated as such.

    June 17, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    Give him the death penalty.

    June 17, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sal

    After reading about this case, it is clear this 11-year old knew exactly what harm a gun could do. His father on one of the morning shows trying to collect money to save him & for his own expenses. He was the one who gave him the gun! Of course the web site for this kid makes him sound like an angel. Too bad the court papers I found online backs the victims website. I know I wouldn't want him to live next to me.

    June 18, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  14. Kim

    I was abused in every way imaginable from the age of 8 to age 15 by my step father. On many occasions, I would have killed him, had I had the opportunity. Had I followed through with this at the age of 8 or 9 years old, do you really think I had the foresight to see that it was a crime against humanity? I don't think so. This was a child that did this horrific crime. He should be judged on his mental stability when he is old enough to understand what he did.

    June 18, 2010 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. Richie

    "The boy, whose name was withheld by CNN because he is a juvenile..."
    I found this article after reading a CNN article about a 12-year-old African American boy who shot a woman in Detroit. His picture and full name CNN proudly displayed in big letters. Why does CNN so eagerly display the name and picture whenever the juvenile is african american, but on the same day they withold the name when the juvenile is from rural Pennsylvania (where almost all people are white)?

    June 18, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • gabby

      That is an excellent point. I hope you email that to CNN or somewhere it can be seen. Two different boys commit the same crime in cold blood but one is "protected" by the media yet again.

      June 18, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • She-Wolf

      Why is race brought into everything? I do not see anything posted when it is a white but someone always want to point out if it is a black. Be proud of who you are and leave discrimination where it belongs...IN THE PAST.

      June 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
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