MARTINSVILLE, Ind. – An 11-year-old boy charged with murder in the shooting death of his 6-year-old brother is upset and remorseful but does not understand the gravity of the charges he is facing, his attorney said Wednesday.
The boy made his first court appearance wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt, shorts, tennis shoes and shackles around his waist and legs, sitting with his mother and defense attorney John Boren as Morgan Superior Court Judge Christopher Burnham asked if he understood his rights. The boy answered, "Yes, sir."
Boren said he met with the boy for 45 minutes before the hearing.
"The first thing he wanted was to see his mother," Boren told reporters afterward. "He was definitely upset. There's no question about that."
The boy faces charges of murder and reckless homicide in the June 30 shooting death of 6-year-old Andrew Frye. He died after being shot in the head with a .22-caliber gun at his family's home near Martinsville, about 20 miles south of Indianapolis. The two boys have different last names.
Officers arrived and found the 6-year-old on a bed in a bedroom with a gunshot wound to the head after the 11-year-old called 9-1-1, authorities said. Both boys were home alone.
Burnham has ordered some court records sealed because the boy is a juvenile, and Boren and Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega have declined to discuss the details of the shooting as a result.
Sonnega hasn't yet decided whether the boy should be tried as an adult, and Boren said he would seek to keep him in juvenile court.
"My major concern at this point in time is I do not want him to be in adult court," Boren said.
While Boren spoke to reporters, sheriff's deputies escorted the boy — who used a sweat shirt to cover his head — out of the courthouse to an awaiting squad car. Burnham ordered the boy held at the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center in nearby Franklin.
His mother asked Burnham if the boy could attend his brother's funeral Thursday, and the judge said he would have to work out logistics with the sheriff's department. Boren said later a sheriff's deputy told him the boy would be allowed to attend.
"All indications are that he will," Boren told the Associated Press.
Indiana law allows anyone over age 10 to be tried as an adult. For that to happen, Sonnega would have to convince Burnham that there was strong evidence against the boy, that he likely cannot be rehabilitated in the juvenile system, and that waiving him to adult court was in the best interest of the safety and welfare of the community.
Sonnega said he won't decide on whether to have the boy tried as an adult until after authorities have completed their investigation. He said he would consider what's best for the child as well as for the community.
"I think it's really important in our system of justice that we have in the United States that we slow things down and use a very levelheaded, even-keeled approach to a very emotional topic," Sonnega said.
Burnham set a fact-finding hearing in the juvenile case for July 26.
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