A Washington prosecutor who is charging two boys aged 10 and 11 with conspiracy to commit murder concedes that it is "very rare" to try someone so young, but said the felony charges were necessary because the boys' crime was premeditated and experts determined they were "a danger to others."
The fifth graders from Colville, Wash., were arrested in February and Steven County Superior Court judge ruled recently that the boys are competent to stand trial on murder conspiracy charges, witness tampering and juvenile possession of a firearm.
The boys allegedly plotted to shoot and stab a girl in their class because she was "really annoying," according to court documents.
Police noted in their report that the boys "did not display any emotion or remorse during the interview." When asked if he knew what he was going to do was dangerous, wrong and unlawful, the 10-year-old replied, "Yes, I just want her dead."
The boys said there were other students they were targeting, even providing officials with six additional names.
"I was a defense attorney for about 14 years in North Carolina and have been a prosecutor for about 12 years here in the state of Washington and I'm not aware of other cases like this," Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen told ABCNews.com. "I don't know that it's absolutely unique, but it's certainly very rare."
Rasmussen also has no qualms about the prosecution.
Referring to psychologists who examined the boys, Rasmussen said, "Both of these professionals believed that the boys presented a danger to other people and that was an important feature for the judge's decision."
The judge found that both boys had capacity to understand right from wrong and cleared the way for juvenile court. They remain in custody with a bond of $100,000 for each boy.
"We are very thankful that nobody was harmed," Rasmussen said. "But for the courage of a fourth grader to tell a teacher that he had seen a knife, this plot would have been carried out."
"As to why children do this, I wish I knew. It is very troubling. It's very scary," he said. "I don't have an explanation and the explanation that the boys gave for why they had planned to do this is entirely inadequate."
Defense attorneys Dee Hokom and Don Richter did not respond to requests for comment.
On Feb. 7, a Colville police officer responded to Colville Elementary School where a fourth grader had alerted a school employee that another student had a knife.
School officials searched the backpacks of the student and his friend who was with him and they found a knife, an ammunition clip and a "functioning" .45 caliber Remington 1911 semi-automatic handgun in 10-year-old's bag, according to court documents.
When a staff member asked the boy why he brought a gun to school, the said that he and his friend were going to "get" a female student identified as "S.L.T." in court documents. When the staffer asked what he meant, he said they "were going to get S.L.T. away from the school and do her in."
The 11-year-old stated that he was going to be the "knifer" and his friend was going to be the "shooter." A third friend was aware of the plot, but they planned to give him $80 to keep it a secret.
The 11-year-old told the administrator that they were planning on killing the girl "because she was really annoying," according to court documents.
"[The 11-year-old] stated that he had been friends with her [S.L.T.] for several months but that he hated her now," the filing said. "He also indicated that S.L.T. had recently become rude and would pick on him."
The younger boy said that he had been in a short "dating relationship" with the girl they were targeting, but would not go into any details, according to the court filing.
The younger boy told police that the had taken the gun from his older brother's room and that his brother had taken it from their dead grandfather's home a few months before.
While the boys were waiting to be taken to a juvenile detention center, the older boy allegedly said to the younger, "If I find out who told them about our weapons I'm going to kill them. I don't care, when I get out of jail I'm going to come back and kill them."
The boys' names are not being used because of their young ages.
Why Fifth Graders Were Charged With Murder Conspiracy
In the state of Washington, a child under the age of 8 is not capable of being charged with a crime because they don't have the capacity to comprehend things and have criminal intent. From ages 8 to 11, that presumption of no capacity exists but can be overcome if the state can provide evidence that proves otherwise.
In this case, the court looked at whether the boys understood the consequences of the act and determined they understood the consequences of what they planned and tried to keep it secret.
If convicted, the boys face a maximum guideline sentence time of about two-and-a-half years, Rasmussen said. However, if the judge finds that the guideline sentence is unjust he can potentially decrease or increase it. Confinement until the age of 21 is the maximum.
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Crime & Justice