FORT MORGAN, Colo. (AP) – A 13-year-old Burlington boy accused of killing his parents and wounding two siblings will plead guilty to murder charges as a juvenile to avoid being tried as an adult, a prosecutor said Friday.
District Attorney Bob Watson said the boy, who was 12 at the time of the slayings, faces seven years in juvenile prison. If tried and convicted as an adult, the boy could have faced decades in prison.
“This was not an easy decision, nor one that I’m entirely happy with,” Watson said. “But unfortunately the current status of Colorado law forces us to choose between either an unacceptably light juvenile sentence or an unnecessarily harsh lifetime sentence.”
The boy, whose name has been withheld because he is a juvenile, is charged in the March shooting deaths of his parents, Marilyn and Charles Long, in the farm town on the Eastern Plains.
He also is charged with shooting and wounding a younger brother and assaulting a younger sister with a knife.
The boy faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and three counts of first-degree assault. Watson said the boy was expected to enter the pleas at a Sept. 28 hearing.
Police said they found the bodies of Charles and Marilyn Long on March 1 inside their Burlington home, about 140 miles east of Denver. The killings shocked the farm community of 3,700, including members of the Evangelical Free Church that the Long family attended.
Marilyn Long, 50, homeschooled her kids and ran the children’s ministry at the church. Charles Long, 51, served as a church elder and was a snack delivery driver. The boy was a greeter at the church and helped other children memorize Bible verses.
Court documents allege the boy stabbed and shot his 9-year-old brother and hurt his 5-year-old sister with a knife. Both recovered from their wounds.
Watson said the boy used a .357 Magnum revolver in the shootings.
In Fort Morgan, Watson and public defender Tom Ward said they considered whether the boy had any mental health problems, the wishes of the Long family, and community safety in reaching the plea deal. Prosecutors and Ward also shared the findings of mental health evaluations of the boy conducted by each side.
Watson acknowledged that many relatives of the Longs wanted the boy to be tried as an adult.
Charles Long’s sister, Deborah Long, said she was appalled by the decision.
“He killed my brother. He should spend the rest of his life in prison,” Deborah Long said. “I don’t think he should ever get out, and I don’t think the rest of our family or the rest of society is going to be safe when he does get out.”
Watson called for “some middle ground” in state law to make sure “that serious juvenile offenders are held and treated until we are confident that they don’t pose a threat.”
By P. SOLOMON BANDA, Associated Press
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)