Published: November 10, 2008
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.
Prosecutors Say Boy Methodically Shot His Father - NYTimes.com
My two cents-
Does this case remind anyone else of the The Lohstroh (PARENT ALIENATION SYNDROME) Case:
"Alienating Mother Pushes 10 Year-Old Boy to Kill Father"
Story here - His Side with Glenn Sacks
The more I read about the case in Arizona the other day .. the more I see this needing an investigation by a Dr. well versed in Parent Alienation.
(1) Father just remarried (major problem for alienators when the other parent remarries)
(2) Non Custodial - Mother just left the child after a visit (that's usually when they (alienators) do the most damage - when they have time with the child-- my ex WAS the Non Custodial Parent and he alienated when ever he saw the children- telling them things like I was cheating on him.. I didn't want them (my children) he had no boundaries or concern for the children's mental health.. all he cared about was destroying my relationship with them.. and making himself into the victim! Alienators play that role VERY WELL!
' "The boy's mother had visited St. Johns from Mississippi last weekend
and returned to Arizona after the shootings that took place Wednesday,
said Apache County Attorney Brad Carlyon." '
(3) Investigations show no other signs of a problem - signature of alienated/enmeshed children- they appear fine until you mention the target parent!
(4) In the story above they mention two other cases since 1976 where a child of this age killed a parent.. one of those stories is The Lohstroh Case which I shared in my two cents above.
Does anyone know what eventually happened to that poor baby after he was brainwashed into shooting his father?
The thought of it makes me sick!
The thought of that alienating woman who might as well have pulled the trigger walking free while her son sits in jail - really makes me want to vomit!
The Lohstroh Case two years later -
lohstroh boy gets 10 year sentence
Oct. 5, 2006, 3:44 PM
Boy who killed dad gets 10-year sentence
By DALE LEZON
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
A jury decided today that a 12-year-old boy who shot his father to death two years ago as the man waited outside his ex-wife's home in Katy should remain in custody for 10 more years, according to the boy's relatives.
The verdict in the Harris County Juvenile Justice Center courtroom came on the jury's third day of deliberations in the case involving the slaying of physician Rick Lohstroh.
The boy, who was 10 at the time, got into his father's sport utility vehicle and shot him five times with his mother's pistol, authorities said.
The boy's mother, Deborah Geisler, wept this afternoon as she left the downtown Houston courtroom. She declined to comment except to say the jury had decided on a 10-year sentence. The boy's paternal grandfather, Richard Greene, emerged from the courtroom a short time later and also said the sentence is 10 years.
The boy could become eligible for parole after serving three years. State District Judge Michael Schneider imposed a gag order on everyone involved in the trial and barred the public and the media from the courthouse's seventh floor, where his courtroom is located.
Lohstroh, a 41-year-old doctor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, was killed on Aug. 27, 2004.
He had come to Geisler's home to pick up the boy and his younger brother, who was still in the house when the shooting took place.
After hearing a month of testimony, the jury decided last week that the boy had ``engaged in delinquent conduct'' in shooting his father.
The boy, whom the Chronicle is not naming because of his age, faced a possible sentence ranging from probation to 40 years in custody. Because he is a juvenile, he will be held in the Texas Youth Commission until he is at least 16, and then he could be transferred to a state prison.
The TYC would retain jurisdiction until he turns 21, however, so he also could remain in a TYC facility until that age and then go to adult prison.
Here's another take on the Lohstroh case:
10 year old son shoots father in the back