Guess this kid was trained in the proper use of fire arms... Discuss.
The New York Times
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November 11, 2008
Prosecutors Say Boy Methodically Shot His Father
By JOHN DOUGHERTY and ANAHAD O’CONNOR
An 8-year-old Arizona boy charged with premeditated murder in the deaths of his father and another man shot each victim at least four times with a .22-caliber rifle, methodically stopping and reloading as he killed them, prosecutors said Monday.
Although investigators initially said they thought the boy might have suffered severe physical or sexual trauma, they have found no evidence of abuse, said Roy Melnick, the police chief in St. Johns, Ariz., where the shootings occurred. Psychologists say such abuse is often a factor in the extremely rare instances in which a small child murders a parent.
An investigation found no evidence that the boy had had disciplinary problems at school or shown signs that he was troubled, Chief Melnick said. “That’s what makes this case somewhat puzzling,” he said, adding that the court had ordered a psychological evaluation for the boy. “Our goal is to get him some help.”
Kathleen M. Heide, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida, said the odds of such killings “are so infinitesimal, it’s really hard to even comprehend.”
From 1976 to 2005, there were 62 cases in the United States in which a 7- or 8-year-old was arrested on murder charges, said Dr. Heide, who analyzed F.B.I. data. Only two of those cases involved a child killing a parent. Children younger than 7 who commit killings are not charged in most states.
In cases in which a child kills a parent, the child is typically a teenager and usually acts for one of three reasons, psychologists say. Most often, the child has suffered years of physical or sexual abuse. Others kill because of severe mental illness. And some have extreme antisocial or psychopathic tendencies — a child who is used to getting his way and kills out of anger.
“The wrinkle here,” Dr. Heide said, “is that this boy is so young, it could possibly be immaturity and impulsivity.” In children as young as 8, parts of the brain that weigh decisions and consequences are so underdeveloped that a child might not understand the finality of death.
The boy in Arizona was no stranger to weapons — his father, an avid hunter, reportedly trained his son to shoot prairie dogs — and psychologists said that might have played a role.
The shootings occurred Wednesday afternoon in the two-story home in St. Johns, about 200 miles northeast of Phoenix, where the boy lived with his father, Vincent Romero, 29. The deputy attorney for Apache County, Brad Carlyon, said Monday that the boy was taken to the police by his grandmother and initially considered a victim because he was believed to have discovered the men’s bodies.
But about 45 minutes into an hourlong police interview, Mr. Carlyon said, the boy confessed to shooting his father and a man who rented a room in the house, Timothy Romans, 39, of San Carlos, Ariz.
Mr. Carlyon said the boy told the police that he had been spanked at home the night before because he was having trouble at school. But, the prosecutor said, the boy “did not say that was the reason he committed any of the acts.”
Prosecutors said the murder weapon was a single-action .22-caliber hunting rifle that requires reloading before each shot. “He had to eject the shell from the rifle and put in a new shell each time he fired,” Mr. Carlyon said.
Mr. Carlyon and Chief Melnick spoke to The New York Times shortly before an Apache County judge placed a gag order on lawyers and the police a little before noon Monday.
Mr. Romero, who was divorced from the boy’s mother, had recently remarried and had custody of his son. Mr. Romero was the first victim, investigators said, shot in the head and chest as he walked up a staircase inside the house shortly after 5 p.m.
Mr. Romans was outside the house talking on his cellphone to his wife, Mr. Carlyon said, when he heard some commotion inside. Mr. Carlyon said the rifle produced only a “muffled, soft popping” sound, making it likely that Mr. Romans had no idea what had happened inside. Mr. Carlyon said Mr. Romans had told his wife that the boy was calling for him. He was on the porch on his way into the house when he was shot in the chest and head, the authorities said.
The police arrived at the house one minute after receiving a phone call from a neighbor at 5:08 p.m., Chief Melnick said. Both men were dead. The chief said the boy was not immediately taken into custody. “He was considered a witness,” Chief Melnick said.
A secretary for the boy’s lawyer, Benjamin Brewer, said Mr. Brewer was in court all day Monday and could not be reached for comment. Mr. Brewer has said that neither he nor the boy’s family was present for the questioning and that the boy was not read his rights. He is being held at the Apache County Juvenile Detention Center.