updated 12/8/2008 7:38:21 PM ET 2008-12-09T00:38:21

A judge on Monday refused to discuss a prosecution motion to drop a murder charge against an eastern Arizona 8-year-old accused of killing his father and another man.

Judge Michael Roca said during a hearing in St. Johns that he doesn't want to address the motion while a competency issue in the case is still pending; he ordered all proceedings stayed until the evaluations are complete.

"I don't feel it's appropriate," Roca said.

The boy, who wasn't at Monday's hearing, faces two counts of premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 shooting deaths of his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, and 39-year-old Timothy Romans, a co-worker of Romero who was renting a room in the family's home.

Murder charge dismissed?
Prosecutors are asking Roca to dismiss the murder charge stemming from Romero's death. When they brought up the possibility of Roca dismissing both charges, the judge declined to address that as well.

If the judge were to grant the prosecutors' motion, it would allow them to refile the charge when the boy is older and try him as an adult. Prosecutors say they are limited in the time in which they can refile charges in the juvenile system, but there's no statute of limitations for filing an adult murder charge.

The case is essentially in a holding pattern until at least Dec. 17, when a state expert is scheduled to evaluate the boy. An expert for the defense already has completed a mental health and competency evaluation.

A status conference in the case is set for Dec. 22.

Roca said Monday that attorneys can continue interviewing people in the case and, noting the frustration of defense attorneys, ordered that results of DNA and forensics tests be turned over to the defense by the end of January.

In a police interview, the boy admitted to firing at least two shots at each of the men. The boy also told police in the interview that his stepmother had spanked him five times the night before the shootings because he did not bring home some papers from school. According to documents later released by prosecutors, the boy kept a tally of spankings, vowing his 1,000th would be his last.

The issue of competency
If the boy were found to be incompetent and could not be restored to competency within 240 days, prosecutors said the judge would have to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning the charges could not be refiled, and initiate civil commitment proceedings. Prosecutors said a civil commitment is unlikely.

"There is substantial likelihood that in the event the juvenile were found incompetent and not restorable to competency, the juvenile in this case will go completely without treatment to address why he was capable of killing two apparently innocent persons," prosecutors said in court documents. "Further, the victims in this matter would go completely without justice."

Prosecutor Brad Carlyon said Monday that the state is considering filing a special action with the state Court of Appeals to determine whether the judge can stay the proceedings in the case.

"Our position is we should move forward," said Apache County Attorney Criss Candelaria.

Prosecutors have offered a plea deal to the boy, which defense attorney Benjamin Brewer has said will resolve the case without it being transferred to adult court.

'A no-win situation'
spokesman for the Romans family said he doesn't believe justice ever will be served in a case that is more focused on the child and his age than the victims.

"No matter what you do, keep him in, let him go, it's a no-win situation," said John Andreas.

Brewer brought up the possibility of future furloughs for the boy before the attorneys and Roca retreated to the judge's chamber to discuss the case. The boy was granted a 48-hour furlough to be with his mother for Thanksgiving.

"Our guy is sitting in the detention center and we don't think that's best for him," Brewer said after the hearing.

Court administrator Betty Smith said the procedures for future furloughs were discussed but none were requested.

The judge also denied a motion by defense attorneys to appoint a therapist for the boy. Roca said he did not agree with provisions in the motion that would keep the therapist from testifying.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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