Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Teen claims he shot mother after suffering from abuse
BRANDON -- A teen who shot his adoptive mom and sister broke down and wept in court when asked to recall killing his five-year-old sibling.
The 17-year-old slumped over in the witness box and sobbed as Crown attorney Jim Ross began to describe the girl's wounds.
The youth's tears came during his sentencing hearing, which continues today. He has pleaded guilty in Brandon Court of Queen's Bench to two counts of second-degree murder for the Aug. 24, 2007, shootings at the family home near St. Lazare.
He was 14 years old at the time and the hearing before Justice Robert Cummings will determine whether he is to be sentenced as a youth or an adult.
The teen, who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, claims he shot his adoptive mother after suffering years of abuse.
When he was younger, he was hit daily, he said. His mom would hit and kick him, sometimes striking him with a slipper, belt or TV cable cords.
When he was 11 or 12 years old, she held a knife to his throat and on another occasion burned his leg with a cigarette, he said.
He said he never fought back, but snapped the day of the shootings.
"I thought I couldn't take it any more."
His mom was scolding him for not doing his yard work properly and dragged him by his hair, called him a liar, threatened to send him back to Child and Family Services and began to hit him.
He said he crawled to his parents' bedroom and, while barring the door with his feet, managed to grab the .22-calibre rifle from under the bed, reached into a dresser drawer for ammunition and loaded the gun.
He said his mom then flung the door open but ran for the kitchen after she spotted the rifle. He was afraid she was going to grab a knife, he said, and "That's when it happened."
The teen broke down when Ross described how the boy had shot the girl four times, twice in the head.
When pressed by Ross for a reason why he had shot the five-year-old, the youth couldn't explain.
He said he didn't mean to and it was only a short time later that he realized what he had done.
Ross pointed to inconsistencies in the teen's account of the shooting.
He questioned how he managed to bar the bedroom door with his feet while lying or sitting down, yet still managed to reach blindly into a drawer to find ammunition and load the gun with 14 rounds without dropping a shell.
Ross also wondered how the mother had been shot in the side of her head -- three times -- if she was shot with her back to the youth while running away.
And despite the teen's assertion he was struck by his mom numerous times, there were no bruises in the photos police took of him two days later.
His father also previously testified he saw no evidence his wife abused his son and her sisters said they had never seen her strike her boy.
In court on Tuesday, Dr. Eric Ellis, an expert on child abuse, said the teen's problems likely developed from early neglect before he was adopted at age three.
The youth also has rigid control of his emotions, a trait that takes time to develop and allows children to cope with explosive and unpredictable adults.
I have sympathy for this teen, as I believe he did suffer from abuse and neglect, which can alter your brain functions. He should not be sentenced as an adult. There should be a defence like the Battered Woman Syndrome defence, that applies to adult men and teens who have been abused. This teen should also not be given the maximum youth sentence for second degree murder, which is 7 years. He should be given 3 years custody and 2 years community supervision.