CENTREVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A 9-year-old boy accused of killing his mom — the youngest ever charged with murder in Michigan — went home with his dad on Friday after a judge dismissed all the charges.
St. Joseph County Family Division Judge David Tomlinson ruled the boy was not competent to stand trial.
The small boy, a third-grader, turned and hugged his dad and cried.
But before the ruling, the judge criticized a state law that won’t allow him to order help for the boy.
“I’m not happy with the state of the law,” the judge said. “This case disturbs me more than any case I’ve ever dealt with.”
St. Joseph Chief Assistant Prosecutor Josh Robare told the judge he fears the boy could kill again without treatment.
“A murderer will be released, putting everybody at risk in the community,” Robare said. “There are no further steps to take to ensure this won’t happen again, no rehabilitation to ensure the safety of others.”
“The court shares your concern,” the judge responded.
Even the defense attorney questioned the law.
“I can’t imagine the prosecutor not being concerned about a case being dismissed with prejudice against somebody accused of killing someone,” attorney T.J. Reed told News 8.
The boy is so short his feet couldn’t touch the floor as he sat before the judge Friday in a courtroom closed to our cameras.
“When I first saw him, I can tell you that it takes you back a step, you scratch your head and you’re thinking, is this really going on? Is this really my client?” His attorney said.
The boy was accused of shooting and killing his adoptive mom, Pauline Randol, at the family’s home near Sturgis on May 6.
It’s still not clear why it happened. The boy’s mom was described as a good woman who had raised the boy since he was 10 months old, after he was taken away from his methamphetamine-addicted mother.
The boy at first told police that maybe hunters shot her; then he told them his dad did it.
The boy was charged with open murder and a felony weapons charge — perhaps the youngest in the country to face such charges.
Under state law, he was presumed incompetent to stand trial because he’s under 10 years old.
Prosecutors wanted him found competent so the court could take jurisdiction and order treatment. But after 120 days, an evaluator found he was not competent to stand trial and could not be made competent.
Under state law, that left the judge with no choice but to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning it can never be filed again.
“Normally a defense attorney would see this as a major victory,” the boy’s attorney said. “I think in today’s ruling, the law was exposed for some deficiencies and problems when you have mental health issues with the young.”
The judge slammed the law, saying it should allow the court to still order mandatory hospitalization. Instead, that will be up to the boy’s dad.
The other option, the judge said, would be for the state to order treatment, but that could only happen if the boy were the victim of abuse or neglect.
The defense attorney told us that the boy’s dad has plans for his son, but he refused to disclose those.