WEST POINT, Utah - The Davis County Attorney's Office filed two murder charges Thursday against a 15-year-old accused of killing his two adopted brothers.
Prosecutor Troy Rawlings stayed away from the cameras Thursday out of respect for the victims' family. However, Rawlings has rejected the family’s hope of keeping the teen suspect in the juvenile system and is pushing for the 15-year-old to be charged as an adult.
The charges filed Thursday do not detail what happened inside a West Point home May 22 but investigators have already said a 15-year-old slashed and stabbed 4-year-old Benjie and 10-year-old Alex. It happened while their older brother was watching them.
In a press release issued Thursday, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said, "We believe that in the vast majority of circumstances, minors should remain in the juvenile justice system." However, "based on the evidence as we know it, it's our view that concern for public safety is paramount."
"I'm not surprised,” said neighbor Vickie Bair. “I was hoping it wouldn't be the case but maybe there was something going on we didn't know about. I was hoping the young man could come out and start his life over and let the family heal but if he can't be in society. I trust our justice system."
If the teen remained in the juvenile courts, he'd be released at age 21, regardless of the crime or threats to public safety. Prosecutors say they can't risk that.
"We express deep sympathy...and are mindful that this is a devastating situation...and decision for the family involved," Rawlings said.
"My hope is that we have additional time to change their position on that," said defense attorney Todd Utzinger. "We're still hoping obviously to prevail that he shouldn't be certified."
Days after the crime, a memorial grew outside the victims' home.Just over a month later, it's gone but pain lingers.
"I think they're home, we don't know," said neighbor Paul Bair. “It's got to be hard for them."
The 15-year-old is at the Farmington Bay Youth Detention Facility. He and his attorney appeared before a judge Friday morning for a routine detention hearing.
The defense attorney added that it may take several weeks for a juvenile court judge to decide whether or not the teen should be certified as an adult.
The following is the full statement from the Davis County Attorney's Office:
The Davis County Attorney’s Office, consistent with Rule 3.6 of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, provides the following limited information.
A 15-year-old male has been charged with two (2) counts of murder. Consistent with constitutional principles, he is presumed innocent. This presumption remains unless sufficient evidence to overcome it is presented in court.
We believe that in the vast majority of circumstances, minors should remain in the juvenile justice system. Despite that orientation, in this particular case, the Davis County Attorney’s Office will seek to certify the 15-year-old male as an adult and transfer jurisdiction to the District Court.
If a Juvenile Court Judge finds probable cause that the crimes were committed by the 15-year-old and then certifies him to stand trial as an adult (after assessing statutory factors), jurisdiction of the case will be in the Second District Court. After assessing the matter, the judge may also decide it is more appropriate to keep the minor in the juvenile system.
A note about Utah Law:
From a public policy stand point, this case illustrates a problem. If a juvenile remains in the juvenile system, they are free and released from custody at 21 years of age, regardless of the crime(s) committed and irrespective of any risk they may pose to public safety.
However, if a minor over 14 years of age (in this case a 15-year-old) is certified as an adult and convicted, any jail or prison time imposed, even while still a juvenile by age, will be in an adult facility and may be for the maximum time (life) an adult could serve. Neither of these alternatives is attractive. In a case such as this, one route or the other must be selected.
Based on the evidence as we know it (which cannot be discussed outside of court), it is our view that concern for public safety is paramount.
We express deep sympathy and are mindful that this is a devastating situation and decision for the family involved. Therefore, public statements, other than those appropriate with court proceedings, will be limited to this release.