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Prosecutors offer plea deal to child suspect

Prosecutors have offered a plea deal to an 8-year-old boy charged with murder in the shooting deaths of his father and another man in their Arizona home.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Prosecutors offered a plea deal to an 8-year-old boy charged with murder in the shooting deaths of his father and another man in their Arizona home.

Complete details of the offer were not spelled out in a court filing posted Saturday on the Apache County Superior Court's Web site.

But Apache County Attorney Criss Candelaria wrote that he had "tendered a plea offer to the juvenile's attorneys that would resolve all the charges in the juvenile court contingent on the results of the mental health evaluations."

Police have said the boy planned and methodically carried out the killings of his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, and 39-year-old Timothy Romans, who rented a room in the family's two-story home in the small eastern Arizona community of St. Johns.

In Saturday's development, Candelaria was responding to a defense motion seeking to block him from dropping one of two first-degree murder charges the boy is facing.

Defense attorney Benjamin Brewer argued in a Nov. 25 filing that prosecutors wanted the charge dismissed so they could refile it when the boy was older and press the case in adult court.

'Difficult to assess'
Brewer said Saturday the deal would resolve the case without it being transferred to adult court, although he declined to provide additional details. Although he is considering the offer, Brewer said he is unsure of his client's ability to understand the proceedings. At least two mental health evaluations are yet to be completed.

"It is going to be difficult to assess what (the boy) can or cannot enter into," Brewer said on Saturday. "But certainly we're looking at it."

In Arizona, those convicted as juveniles can only be held until they turn 18. The law allows prosecutions of juveniles age 8 and above as adults.

The prosecutor explained in his response to Brewer's opposition filing that he wasn't trying to obtain an unfair advantage, but pressed for the dismissal because the judicial system just isn't equipped to deal with an 8-year-old charged with murder.

Police in the small eastern Arizona town of St. Johns found Romero and Romans shot to death after the boy ran to a neighbor's house on the afternoon of Nov. 5. He was questioned after Romans' wife raised suspicions about him the next day, and in a videotape released by prosecutors he admits pulling the trigger. Romans worked with Romero and rented a room in his home.

Each man was shot several times with a single-shot, bolt-action .22-caliber rifle.

His grandmother told police that if any 8-year-old was capable of the crimes, it was him. Police reports say the boy told a state Child Protective Services worker that his 1,000th spanking would be his last.

The boy remained in a county juvenile facility, although he was allowed a 48-hour furlough to spend Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday with his mother.

The next court hearing is set for Dec. 8.