Jun. 25—MANKATO — A Mankato teenager who is accused of beating a toddler to death will be tried as an adult.
A Blue Earth County judge this week approved a request to prosecute Lee Wayne Young Jr., 17, as an adult. He would be sentenced as an adult if he is convicted.
Young is suspected of fatally beating and sexually assaulting a 2-year-old boy he knows in a Mankato residence in April. He was charged with second-degree murder as a juvenile. He was 16 years old at that time but since has turned 17.
Moving such a murder case to adult court is the presumption, Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Todd Coryell has argued.
The defense did not provide an adequate reason not to move the case, Judge Gregory Anderson ruled.
"The juvenile has not rebutted the presumption of certification by clear and convincing evidence to demonstrate that retaining the proceedings in juvenile court serves public safety," Anderson wrote.
The judge considered factors including the seriousness of the alleged crime, Young's level of alleged involvement, Young's criminal history, and the potential sentence.
Anderson called the victim "particularly vulnerable and defenseless," and said there "was particular cruelty involved" in his death.
The 2-year-old died from multiple traumatic injuries that included evidence of a sexual assault, court documents say.
A girl told police she found the toddler bleeding and cold in his room while she and Young were home alone with the boy. Young reportedly gave conflicting accounts of his whereabouts around the time of the boy's death.
"There is evidence there was a cover-up and removal of evidence by the juvenile (Young) or someone acting on his behalf," Anderson wrote. "There is no evidence that anyone other than the juvenile and a 10-year-old sister of the victim were in the vicinity of the victim at the time of the murder."
In adult court, the standard sentence for someone with no adult criminal history who is convicted of second-degree murder is over eight years in prison and four years on parole.
If juvenile cases, sentences cannot go beyond an offender's 21st birthday. That would mean less than four years for Young, which Anderson called a "lack of adequate punishment."
Anderson's ruling also notes Young's "extensive juvenile delinquency record." He has juvenile convictions for bringing a dangerous weapon onto school property in 2018, for fleeing from police and interfering with police in 2019 and giving a false name to police in 2020. He also has pending drug possession charges and a pending charge for carrying a gun in a public place. Multiple other charges have been dismissed.
"There have not only been multiple offenses but they have overlapped his probation terms and showed he is not amenable to probation," Anderson wrote.
Young's attorney, Kevin O'Connor Green, declined to comment on the ruling but said he stood by comments made during prior court hearings. Those included a claim that Young's DNA was not found on the toddler.
"My client is anxious to exonerate himself," Green said during a hearing earlier this month.
Young will make an initial appearance in adult court on July 8.
Bail was set at $3 million with no conditions or $1 million with conditions including GPS monitoring and he not have any contact with the toddler's family members or with other potential witnesses in the case, including his father.