A judge today set a Sept. 17 date for a hearing to decide whether a 12-year-old St. Louis boy accused of fatally stabbing a young girl should be tried as an adult.
The boy, who is not being identified because of his age, made a brief appearance this morning before Judge Jimmie Edwards in St. Louis Family Court.
The boy appeared in court wearing a short-sleeved blue shirt accompanied by his attorney. His father sat behind him in a wheelchair. The boy said little during the short hearing.
The boy's attorney, Paul Sims, told the judge he does not oppose the boy being held in detention pending the September hearing because although the boy is not a threat to the community, we do fear for his safety.
The judge agreed, and the brief hearing was over.
He's very traumatized. This is a very serious charge, Sims said to reporters outside the courtroom. For his own safety I believe he needs to be here.
Sims said the young boy doesn't exactly understand what is going on.
The boy is accused of stabbing Alexus Purtty, 13, Thursday night during a fight in the 3800 block of St. Louis Avenue, where both victim and suspect lived. He remains in the city Juvenile Detention Center in midtown on a charge of second-degree murder under the juvenile code.
Alexus' mother and grandmother appeared in court wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the girl's photo. They declined to speak to reporters after the hearing.
If the court decides to try the boy as an adult, he will he become the youngest suspect in the St. Louis area to stand trial as an adult for murder.
Since 1995, when Missouri joined a host of states that toughened their laws against juvenile offenders, the state has had no minimum age for certifying youths as adults for certain serious offenses, including murder and rape. Under the old state law, a suspect had to be at least 14 at the time of the offense to be considered for trial as an adult. The 1995 law outlines what factors the judge and juvenile court staff must review.
In Illinois, 13 is the minimum age for moving a young offender into the adult court system.
In the greater St. Louis area, two 13-year-olds have been certified as adults in separate murder cases. In 2005, a 12-year-old girl from St. Louis who was accused of strangling her 9-year-old sister in a dispute over a hamburger was kept in the juvenile court system.
Suspects have to be at least 12 at the time of offense for most crimes, but the law sets no minimum age for murder, rape, sodomy, first-degree assault or robbery, distribution of drugs, or two or more prior felony offenses of any kind.
Kathryn Herman, assistant city juvenile court administrator, said the law requires a review of 10 factors, including viciousness of a crime, the suspect's record and home life, and his or her age. Herman said her staff will prepare a recommendation for Edwards.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, who would prosecute an adult case, said she would await Edwards' decision.
Checks with Missouri agencies Tuesday could not determine any murder cases involving a suspect under age 13. The 2004 report of the Missouri Division of Youth Services said a 12-year-old had been certified as an adult, but the report did not include the offense or where the case was handled.
Pending in St. Louis County Circuit Court are adult charges against Sherman Burnett Jr. of the Spanish Lake area, who was 13 when he allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted a 6-year-old neighbor girl in 2005.
Alexus Purtty's relatives said she was defending her family from harassment by the suspect, who they said had burgled their home the week before. Police said Alexus had been fighting with a friend of the suspect when he approached with a knife and stabbed her in the left side.
She was pronounced dead at 12:05 a.m. Friday in St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Shortly after Alexus Purtty was pronounced dead, her relatives claimed they had called police numerous times on the suspect because of his alleged burglary. Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr., D-3rd Ward, asked the police department to review its responses.
Department spokesman Richard Wilkes said Tuesday that the review was incomplete. He confirmed that the girl's family members called police at least twice the night of the killing and that police looked for the burglary suspect but could not find him. Wilkes said the family made an undetermined number of calls before that date, and that police canvassed the neighborhood and spoke to the boy's father but never could locate him.
Bosley said the police "are working feverishly to find out what happened."
Bill Bryan and Todd C. Frankel of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report, as did the Associated Press.