12-year-old Californian boy found guilty of killing neo-Nazi father
Boy planned killing carefully and hid gun he used afterwards, California judge notes; she slams family for failing to act on warning signs
A California judge has found a 12-year-old boy guilty and responsible for killing his neo-Nazi father in 2011, and criticised the boy's family and social workers for not protecting the youngster before he felt compelled to reach for a gun.
"There were so many warning signs," Judge Jean Leonard said.
Leonard said the evidence showed that the boy, who was 10 when he pulled the trigger, had the mental capacity to know that killing his father was wrong. He planned the killing, and then tried to conceal his guilt by stashing the .357-magnum revolver under his mattress, Leonard noted.
The boy's father, Jeffrey Hall, was a West Coast leader for the neo-Nazi organisation known as the National Socialist Movement. The judge said Hall's attempts to indoctrinate his son into the hate group corrupted the thoughts of a boy who already was disturbed and displaying violent tendencies.
"It's clear that this minor knows more than the average child about guns, hate and violence," Leonard said. "This is not a naive little boy unaware of the ways of the world."
The judge must now decide what to do with the boy. Since he was charged as a juvenile, he can be held in state custody only until he is 23. The boy's identity has been withheld because of his age.
In California, most underage killers are sent to one of three juvenile detention facilities run by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The institutions house the state's most violent juvenile offenders. None currently has an inmate under 14 years old.
The boy's lawyer, public defender Matthew Hardy, said it would be a "tragedy" if his client were sent to one of the state facilities.
"That's a place that's not a place for children. He'll be spending his time learning how to become a gangbanger or a killer," Hardy said.
The judge indicated she may be open to alternatives, including placing the boy at a centre run by the Riverside County Department of Probation. The boy's sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 15.
Chief deputy district attorney Michael Soccio said he was relieved that the boy would remain in custody.
"Right now in court he was docile, and he can be very sweet," Soccio said after the hearing. "But he's also very dangerous."
The boy's lawyer said during the trial that Hall, when drunk or high, routinely beat his son. Just before he was killed, Hall also threatened to set the house on fire with his children and second wife still inside.
County social workers visited the Hall family's home more than 20 times, Hardy said, and at the time of the shooting he was a dependant of the court, a designation intended in part to shield him from further abuse.
Early in the morning of May 1, 2011, the youngster crept downstairs with the loaded revolver, pulled the hammer back and shot his father point-blank in his head as the slept on the family's living room couch.
Anna Salter, a clinical psychologist from Wisconsin who appeared for the prosecution, testified that the boy's mental function and grasp of reality was probably warped while he was in the womb, when his mother used heroin, LSD and methamphetamine.
The boy's parents divorced soon after he was born.