PLUSHNICK-MASTI | February 21, 2009 |
WAMPUM, Pa. — An 11-year-old boy shot his father's pregnant girlfriend in the back of the head while she was lying in bed in their western Pennsylvania farmhouse, then got on the school bus and went to school, authorities said Saturday.
Jordan Brown was charged Saturday as an adult in the shooting death of 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk, who was 8 months pregnant, Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo said at a news conference.
"The boy and his father...enjoyed hunting together."
Houk's family and friends, who gathered at her parents' house Saturday night, told The Associated Press that Houk had had problems with the boy in the past.
"There was an issue with jealousy. He told my son stuff," said Houk's brother-in-law, Jason Kraner, 34. "He actually told my son that he wanted to do that to her."
Brown, the son of Houk's live-in boyfriend, was charged with criminal homicide and criminal homicide of an unborn child, Bongivengo said. He was being held in Lawrence County Jail. A preliminary hearing is set for Thursday.
The fifth-grader was picked up from school Friday by Pennsylvania State Police, who found Houk's body after her 4-year-old daughter told tree cutters on the property that she thought her mother was dead, Bongivengo said.
The boy had told police there was a suspicious black truck on the property that morning, causing investigators to look into a false lead for about five hours, he said.
Inconsistencies in Brown's description of the vehicle led police to re-interview the victim's 7-year-old daughter, who implicated the boy in the killing, Bongivengo said.
"She didn't actually eyewitness the shooting. She saw him with what she believed to be a shotgun and heard a loud bang," Bongivengo said, adding that the weapon, a youth model 20-gauge shotgun, was found in what police believed was the boy's bedroom.
The shotgun, which apparently belonged to Brown, is designed for children and such weapons do not have to be registered, Bongivengo said.
Brown's attorney, Dennis Elisco, said the evidence points to the gunshot wound being "consistent" with the boy's hunting gun, but he wanted to see stronger proof that it was Brown's.
"I believe Jordan did not do this and I'm looking forward to seeing the physical evidence to see if it matches with what I think happened," he said Saturday after meeting with the boy in jail.
The attorney also said he met with the boy's father, Christopher Brown, and planned to file a motion Monday to have the boy released on bail and move the case to juvenile court.
The attorney said Christopher Brown was "in a state of actual shock and disbelief." There was no indication the boy had a problem with Houk, he added.
UPDATE! April 13, 2012
Brown was adjudicated (tried) as a juvenile and found delinquent (guilty) on April 13, 2012.
Under Pennsylvania law, an adjudicated juvenile offender cannot be held in custody past his 21st birthday. Brown can be held in a juvenile rehabilitative treatment facility only until August 2018, when he turns 21.
"This is a tragic, extremely tragic situation, and it's way too early to have any substantive comment," Elisco said.
Police said they had no motive for the shooting, and Bongivengo would not say whether the boy confessed.
"An 11-year-old kid _ what would give him the motive to shoot someone?" Houk's father, Jack, told the AP. "Maybe he was just jealous of my daughter and the baby and thought he would be overpowered."
Jack Houk said the family had gathered at his home in nearby New Castle on Thursday night to celebrate his 4-year-old granddaughter's birthday. Everyone was excited about the pending birth of his daughter's baby, he said.
"That's the last time I seen her, my daughter," Jack Houk said.
He said Brown was raised by his father and grandmother. Houk and the boy's father had been together since May 2008 and were engaged at Christmas, her father said.
Jack Houk said the boy and his father used to practice shooting behind their farmhouse, and the two enjoyed hunting together.
He didn't know of any recent problems between the boy and his daughter, but said there had been "some tension" in the beginning. Houk said his daughter had been working hard to forge a relationship with the boy.
Kraner, Houk's brother-in-law, said Jordan could be a "rough kid." He said his son was interviewed by police about the boy.
Kenzie Houk had been renting the farmhouse in Wampum, a rural community about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, for no more than a year, neighbor Cameron Tucker said.
Tucker's wife sometimes drove Houk's younger daughter to the bus stop because she went to preschool with the Tuckers' 5-year-old.
"She was very protective of her kids," he said.