JEFFERSON CITY — A 6-year-old boy suspected of fatally shooting his grandfather with a rifle will be made a ward of the court but will not face criminal charges, a court official said Friday.
Winston Rutledge, juvenile court administrator for Cole County, said he decided against certifying the boy to stand trial for several reasons, including the child’s age. Instead, the boy will be turned over to the juvenile court for treatment and supervision, Rutledge said in a statement.
Cole County Prosecutor Bill Tackett said he agreed with Rutledge’s decision. He said there was ample evidence to prove that the boy committed the shooting, but it would have been impossible to prove criminal intent.
Doug Abrams, author of “A Very Special Place in Life: The History of Juvenile Justice in Missouri” and an MU law professor, said this is usually the case with children under 9 years old because it is difficult to prove the child’s intent and guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The juvenile court now must decide the best course of action in this case. The court can decide to rule the child incorrigible or ungovernable, determine that the child is neglected and follow through with a civil case involving the custodial guardian, or hear the case as a delinquent act, Abrams said. If the court decides to follow through with the latter, they still have to prove he committed a delinquent act, he said.
“He’s too young to be found criminally responsible or to prove juvenile delinquency,” Abrams said.
Any of the remaining options would need to include treatment for the child, he said.
But the court is taking its time to make decisions about the boy’s fate because it has not dealt with a case like this before, Rutledge said. He said he has been looking to other courts for insight and closely examining laws that pertain to the case to assure they are making correct decisions.
Authorities said the boy shot his grandfather on Nov. 7 with a .22-caliber rifle he found somewhere in the grandfather’s Cole County home. The two were alone at the time. The boy ran outside after the shooting and flagged down a passing neighbor, Cole County Sheriff John Hemeyer said.
The boy has a history of mental problems, and had been released four days earlier from a mental health facility, Hemeyer said.
Missourian reporter Katy Kickham contributed to this report.