A boy who was 11 when he was accused of killing his father's pregnant fiancee and her unborn son was found guilty Friday of their 2009 shotgun slayings.
Lawrence County Judge John Hodge found Jordan Brown, now 14, delinquent, the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict, in the deaths of Kenzie Houk, 26, and her unborn child. The judge closed the trial, held about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, to the media and all but close family members because of the boy's age at the time of the killings.
The boy's lawyer, Stephen Colafella, said it was too early to say if he would appeal the judge's ruling on the first-degree murder and criminal homicide charges.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek said the guilty verdict was important because it would allow the boy to receive counseling and other treatment that had been denied because he and his family had refused to acknowledge his guilt.
"It's sad that it's coming so late," Krastek said, referring to the fact that Brown has been in a juvenile facility about 80 miles from his home for most of the three years since he was charged. "We offered this same result two years ago, and it was stubbornly refused."
"I read in the newspaper the other day that his father said he was the biggest victim in this whole thing," Krastek said. "That's the mindset we've been dealing with. Finally the child's best interest can be attended to right now."
Colafella said Christopher Brown, the boy's father, wouldn't be commenting but was "extremely disappointed" by the verdict. Brown had gone on ABC's "Good Morning America" two years ago to proclaim his son's innocence and repeated that statement after closing arguments in the trial Thursday.
"He now has to wrestle with two issues: One is the impact of the verdict and his belief in his son's innocence," Colafella said. "And, at the same time, he must shift his focus to the treatment aspect of the verdict."
County probation officials will devise a treatment plan for the boy, who remains in a juvenile lockup where his status will be reviewed every six months, according to Charles Marker, a retired Westmoreland County judge with nearly 30 years of experience in juvenile court.
Jack Houk said his daughter's killing has tempered the family's gratitude for the verdict. "We're not 'happy' happy, but we're pleased," he said.
Houk said Hodge told both families "there's no winners here" and urged them both to accept his verdict and move on accordingly.
Jordan Brown could conceivably be released on probation if juvenile court officials ever feel that he has progressed enough to warrant that. But his custody will end at age 21 no matter what because he was convicted in juvenile court.
"I hope he gets the treatment he needs in the time period that he's got, short as it is," Houk said.
Kenzie Houk, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, was shot in the back of the head with Jordan Brown's .20-gauge youth model shotgun while lying in bed. The shooting occurred after the boy's father left for work, with only Jordan Brown and Houk's two daughters, ages 7 and 4, also in the house.