Marie Chockley, a resident of the Timberline Trailer Court north of Goodfield, took a snapshot this Sunday, April 7, 2019, Ill., Examining the damage caused by a Fire was caused on Saturday night, in which five residents of a motorhome were killed. (Photo: Kevin Barlow, AP)
CHICAGO – A 9-year-old child accused of causing a motor home fire that killed three children and two adults in central Illinois was charged with five counts of first degree murder.
The adolescent was also charged with two counts of fire and a count of intensified arson, the (Peoria) Journal Star reported.
The fire on April 6 killed a 1-year-old, two-year-old. olds, a 34-year-old man and a 69-year-old woman at the Timberline Mobile Home Park near the village of Goodfield, about 150 miles southwest of Chicago. Woodford County State Attorney Greg Minger did not disclose any details about the suspect, including a possible relationship with the victims.
No child as young as this has been charged with mass murder since at least 2006, according to AP / USATODAY / Northeastern University's mass murder database. All murders committed since then in the US are recorded in which four or more people were killed (without the perpetrator) within a short period of time (24 hours), regardless of weapon, location, relationship between victim and perpetrator or motive.
Minger said he searched several reports of the fire before he was prosecuted. Woodford County medical examiner Tim Ruestman said the fire was deliberately broken.
"It was a tough decision," Minger said. "It's a tragedy, but in the end, a very young person is charged with one of the worst crimes we've committed, but I think it needs to be done at that point to be final."
A big challenge for the prosecution will be to prove that the child intends to kill in advance what is required in first-degree murder cases – Gus Kostopoulos, a former prosecutor who became a junior defender in Chicago.
"Nine-year-olds do not know He says, "I do not know if 9-year-olds can commit a murder."
A leader Illinois law enforcement spokesman sharply criticized the decision to prosecute such a young child for murder.
] "The charge is completely wrong, considering what we all say about the En Bensy Clark, President of the Juvenile Justice Initiative in Evanston, Ill., said.
Clark spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday via telephone from New York, where she participated in the official publication of a United Nations report on the prosecution of children. It is recommended that children under the age of 14 should never be prosecuted, regardless of the crime.
Clark said that 14 is the minimum age for criminal liability in many countries, including Germany.
In the 1890s, Illinois was one of the first places in the world to establish a juvenile court, removing minors from adulthood, Clark said. However, the case announced this week shows that Illinois is no longer in the age of juvenile justice.
"We used to be a world leader and now we are so far behind," she said.
Violent crimes against children are rare, Clark said, adding that she had not heard of any other cases in which someone so young had been charged with so many murders.
If convicted, the child could be put on probation for at least five years But not older than 21, Minger said. Therapy and advice would be likely.
"Probation is the only result that could come in, given the age," he said.
No arrest warrant should be issued for the suspect, Minger said. The suspect is appointed a lawyer and put on trial in front of a judge.
Under Illinois law, a suspect under the age of 10 can not be arrested. And a minor is not put before a public jury and is not entitled to it – unless the minor is charged as an adult.
The submission of murder announcements against children under 10 is rare but not unprecedented.
Last month, a The Michigan judge dismissed a murder charge against a 9-year-old accused of mortally killing his mother at her home near Sturgis. Judge of the St. Joseph County Family Division, David Tomlinson, ruled that the boy was considered incompetent under the Michigan Act for not having been 10 years old, Richter said.
Kusmer reported from Indianapolis.
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