Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Psychological tests sought for boy accused of slayings


ST. JOHNS - The 8-year-old boy accused of killing his father and another man appeared in Apache County Juvenile Court on Monday, looking more like a restless schoolboy than a murder suspect.

The child, wearing handcuffs and ankle shackles, sat by his birth mother and seemed oblivious to legal discussions about his psychiatric status and his future. He was never addressed during the proceedings by Judge Michael P. Roca and never spoke up.

Instead, the small, slight boy fidgeted occasionally and stifled yawns while the judge and lawyers on both sides developed plans for at least three psychological evaluations

The courtroom scene unfolded just hours after an estimated 800 people attended a funeral Mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church for the child's father, who was buried afterward at the town cemetery.

The boy is charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the gunshot slaying of his 29-year-old father and a renter at their home, 39-year-old Timothy Romans.

Services for Romans are scheduled for late this week.

The Arizona Republic is not publishing the name of the boy or the father to avoid identifying a juvenile.

St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick has said the boy confessed to shooting the men with a .22-caliber rifle on Wednesday. Authorities have not divulged a motive for the killings, and that mystery is likely to remain unresolved in the short term because Roca issued a gag order Monday banning all those involved with the case from public comment.

The boy wore what appeared to be a juvenile detention uniform to the court - orange shirt and blue pants. Early on, defense lawyer Benjamin Brewer asked the judge, "Can we uncuff (him), if possible?" Permission was granted.

Courtroom discussion included problems the child could face in detention with older juveniles who are more hardened. But the judge said that issue had been resolved.

The defense sought permission to visit the crime scene before it was tainted. However, prosecutor Brad Carlyon said the house already had been returned to the family and had been cleaned.

Court officers said the defendant will be tested to determine his mental state on the day of the crime and at the time of his confession to police. He also is to be examined for his competency to face trial and his need for psychological counseling while in custody. If the boy is convicted in juvenile court of delinquency by virtue of homicide, he could be sentenced to detention until age 18.

The gag order was issued days after police and prosecutors discussed details of the case. They said one of the homicide victims was found at the front door to the boy's home, the other upstairs. The family priest had told reporters that the boy was given a rifle by his father, who was an avid hunter.

At Monday morning's funeral service, a number of mourners wore hunting camouflage in honor of the victims. The town was virtually closed during the service, which filled the little church to overflowing.

In his eulogy, the Rev. Robert Hymen said family and friends are being tested by "an incredible event of sorrow and sadness.

"We can't understand the wisdom of God and his provenance," the priest added. "It is something we have to trust."

There was no mention of the child until the end of the service, when Bernadette Kadel, a cousin to the child's father, addressed the crowd.

She described her cousin's early upbringing, his loving nature and his relationships. Then she said, "After high school, he was blessed with his first son. . . . (The boy) was his pride and joy."

Tanya Romans, Timothy's wife, spent Monday preparing for the funeral of her husband. She described him as a loving family man who lived with her and their two daughters, Chantel, 19, and Taylor, 18. The family moved to Mesa so the girls could attend college there. Tanya said her husband lived with the family in Mesa but worked in St. Johns. Authorities have said Timothy was a co-worker of the boy's father at a power plant.

Tanya would not discuss the murder investigation.

"I want answers, too," she said. "The girls are devastated. We just got finished picking out a casket. . . . He was our sole provider."

Funeral ceremonies are to be Friday and Saturday in San Carlos.

Judge Roca said parallel proceedings will soon begin over custody of the child. The boy lived with his father and stepmother, who were married in September.

It is unclear whether the stepmother or someone else in the boy's family will seek custody. His birth mother was by his side in court.

Divorce records indicate the child had not lived with her much during the past four years. As the hearing ended, she hugged and kissed the 8-year-old. Then he was led away in chains.

Republic reporters Sean Holstege and Robert Anglen contributed to this article.

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Psychological tests sought for boy accused of slayings

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