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Jordan Anthony BROWN





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (11) - Jealousy
Number of victims: 1 + 1
Date of murders: February 20, 2009
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1997
Victims profile: Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, (his father's girlfriend eight months pregnant) and her unborn baby, named Christopher Allen Houk-Brown
Method of murder: Shooting with a youth-model 20-gauge shotgun
Location: Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Found responsible for first degree murder on April 13, 2012. Brown can be held in a juvenile rehabilitative treatment facility only until August 2018, when he turns 21

photo gallery


The Jordan Brown case involves Jordan Anthony Brown (born August 12, 1997), who at age 11 was initially charged as an adult in the fatal shooting of his father's fiancée, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, in Wampum, Pennsylvania, on February 20, 2009.

The county District Attorney's Office initially filed the charges in adult court because that is required in Pennsylvania homicide cases regardless of a defendant's age. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office subsequently took over prosecution of the case. After Brown spent more than three years in a juvenile detention facility in Erie, Pennsylvania, while Pennsylvania courts deliberated his status, Brown was tried as a juvenile and adjudicated delinquent (guilty) on April 13, 2012. On May 8, 2013, Superior Court vacated the finding of delinquency, citing "palpable abuse of discretion".


Houk was eight months pregnant when she was shot in the back of the head while she was sleeping in bed in their western Pennsylvania farmhouse. Both she and her unborn infant son died as a result of the attack. Houk's 4-year-old daughter alerted nearby tree cutters roughly 45 minutes after Jordan Brown and Houk's 7-year-old daughter got on a school bus. The state Attorney General prosecutor asserted that Houk was killed by a youth-model 20-gauge shotgun, a Christmas gift to Jordan from his father. Pennsylvania State Police found a spent shotgun shell near the path Brown walked with Houk's older daughter to get to their school bus.


The human-rights organization Amnesty International opposed the effort to try Jordan as an adult, citing the mandatory life in prison with no chance of parole penalty as a violation of international law.

When Jordan's transfer to juvenile court was denied, justice Motto presumed Jordan is guilty and then declared his refusal to incriminate himself as evidence against the possibility of rehabilition. Furthermore, the case has dragged on for years, and all the while the boy remained incarcerated. A petition signed by nearly 4,000 people protested what it termed as denial of fifth amendment right as well as of the right to speedy trial.

Legal proceedings

Jordan Brown was initially charged as an adult. Judge Dominick Motto of the Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, Common Pleas Court initially denied transfer to juvenile court. After Pennsylvania's Superior Court ruled that Judge Motto violated Brown's Fifth Amendment, he reversed his earlier decision and ruled that Brown should be tried as a juvenile.

Then what became an issue was whether Brown's eventual adjudication hearing (juvenile court trial) should be opened to the public, and whether he should provisionally be released while a decision in that matter was pending. Lawrence County family court Judge John Hodge held that Brown's juvenile hearing would not be open to the public or to the news media. The Pennsylvania Superior Court rejected an appeal by three area newspapers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and New Castle News) to overturn Hodge's ruling and open the hearing to the public.

After those newspapers decided not to pursue their appeal further, Judge Hodge was directed by another panel of the Superior Court to move swiftly to hold an adjudication hearing. Judge Hodge ruled that Brown would not be released pending that hearing.

Following three days of testimony and legal argument, Judge Hodge issued his ruling on Friday April 13, 2012, that Brown was responsible for first degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Kenzie Houk and of homicide in the death of her unborn male child. Judge Hodge adjudicated the now-15-year-old Jordan Brown to be delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict).

Judge Hodge will announce Brown's disposition (the equivalent of a juvenile sentence) at a later date. Under Pennsylvania law, an adjudicated juvenile offender cannot be held in custody past his 21st birthday. Brown can be held in a juvenile rehabilitative treatment facility only until August 2018, when he turns 21.

Possible retrial

On May 8, 2013, Superior Court ruled that "the juvenile court committed a palpable abuse of discretion in rendering a ruling that is plainly contrary to the evidence" and vacated the juvenile court's disposition of delinquency. The ruling in particular objected to the assumption, made by the juvenile court, that no one else but Jordan could have shot Houk.


Judge: Pa. boy killed dad's pregnant fiancée at 11

By Joe Mandak -

April 13, 2012

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A boy who was 11 when he was accused of killing his father's pregnant fiancée and her unborn son was found guilty Friday of their 2009 shotgun slayings.

Lawrence County Judge John Hodge found the now-14-year-old Jordan Brown delinquent, the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict, in the deaths of 26-year-old Kenzie Houk and her unborn child. The judge closed the trial, held about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, to the media and all but close family members because of the boy's age during the killings.

The boy's lawyer, Stephen Colafella, said it was too early to say if he'd appeal the judge's ruling on the first-degree murder and criminal homicide charges.

Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek said the guilty verdict was important because it would allow the boy to receive counseling and other treatment that had been denied because he and his family had refused to acknowledge his guilt.

"It's sad that it's coming so late," Krastek said, referring to the fact that Brown has been in a juvenile facility about 80 miles from his home for most of the three years since he was charged. "We offered this same result two years ago and it was stubbornly refused."

"I read in the newspaper the other day that his father said he was the biggest victim in this whole thing," Krastek said. "That's the mindset we've been dealing with. Finally the child's best interest can be attended to right now."

Colafella said Christopher Brown, the boy's father, wouldn't be commenting but was "extremely disappointed" by the verdict. Brown had gone on ABC's "Good Morning America" two years ago to proclaim his son's innocence and repeated that for local reporters after closing arguments in the trial Thursday.

"He now has to wrestle with two issues: One is the impact of the verdict and his belief in his son's innocence," Colafella said. "And, at the same time, he must shift his focus to the treatment aspect of the verdict."

County probation officials will devise a treatment plan for the boy, who remains in a juvenile lockup where his status will be reviewed every six months, according to Charles Marker, a retired Westmoreland County judge with nearly 30 years of experience in juvenile court.

"''They do that because it could be the youngster's turned around his life, and you want to address that if it happens," said Marker, who wasn't involved in the case.

Jack Houk said his daughter's murder has tempered the family's gratitude for the verdict. "We're not 'happy' happy, but we're pleased," Houk said.

Houk said Hodge told both families "there's no winners here" and urged them both to accept his verdict and move on accordingly.

Brown could conceivably be released on probation if juvenile court officials ever feel that he's progressed enough to warrant that. But his custody will end at age 21 no matter what because he was convicted in juvenile court. Brown faced life in prison without parole if convicted of the same charges in Common Pleas, or adult court. That's where state officials initially filed the charges because that's required in Pennsylvania homicide cases regardless of a defendant's age.

"I hope he gets the treatment he needs in the time period that he's got, short as it is," Houk said.

The case grabbed headlines as much due to the chilling nature of the crimes as the ill-fitting Pennsylvania laws governing juvenile homicide suspects, which prompted two Superior Court appeals. The first resulted in the case being moved to juvenile court and the second was an unsuccessful attempt by three western Pennsylvania newspapers to open the trial to the public even though Hodge had the discretion to close the case because Brown was under 12 when the killings occurred.

Another Lawrence County judge, Dominick Motto, initially refused to move the case to juvenile court because he found no evidence connecting anyone else to the killings on Feb. 20, 2009, and agreed with prosecutors that Brown's refusal to admit guilt made his chance of rehabilitation in juvenile custody remote.

Houk, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, was shot in the back of the head with Brown's .20-gauge youth model shotgun while lying in bed. The shooting occurred after the boy's father left for work, with only Jordan Brown and Houk's two daughters, ages 7 and 4, also in the house.

State police investigators found a spent shotgun shell dropped along a path that Brown walked with Houk's older daughter to catch a bus to school minutes after the shooting. "The offense was an execution-style killing of a defenseless pregnant young mother," Motto wrote.

Brown's attorneys argued that the boy was being forced to incriminate himself in order to avoid being tried as an adult and the appeals court agreed.

Months later, Motto reconsidered, after he was ordered by the court to give more weight to a defense expert who thought Jordan would do well in rehabilitation, and moved the case to juvenile court.


Does any 11-year-old deserve life in prison?

By Chris Togneri - Tribune-Review

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fears that someone might try to harm an 11-year-old homicide suspect prompted authorities to place extra patrols at a Beaver County detention center, tripling taxpayers' cost to house him, officials said Friday.

A week after charging Jordan Anthony Brown with killing his father's fiancee and her unborn son, authorities were still grappling with a system not accustomed to handling children so young accused of such crimes. Large questions loom: Was he capable of premeditated murder? Should he be tried as an adult? Is it inhumane to sentence kids to life in prison without parole? Why did he have access to a gun?

Brown was moved Wednesday from the Lawrence County Jail to the Allencrest juvenile center, prompting law enforcement to increase security. Kenzie Houk, 26, and the son she planned to name Christopher were buried Thursday.

Even in a facility designed for kids, Brown is the youngest inmate, Allencrest director Bob Rose said.

"We watched him a little closer when he was with the population early on, like we would with any new inmate," Rose said. "So far, so good. We look for any signs or symptoms. We are always alert to that, and we're particularly alert to that, given the nature of this offense.

"To this point, we have not seen a need to isolate him."

Police in Brighton and Beaver check the area frequently, and a sheriff's deputy guards the Allencrest perimeter around the clock, said Beaver County Solicitor Myron Sainovich. The extra security means Lawrence County is paying $4,500 a week to house Brown in Beaver County, rather than the typical $1,400.

Moving Brown to an isolated ward of the Beaver County Jail would be cheaper, Sainovich said. The jail has housed four minors since 2000.

If Brown is moved, he would be placed in an isolation cell where two guards could watch him 24 hours a day, Sainovich said. He would have access to a shower, a computer, medical care and psychological treatment. A camera would monitor his movements.

Charged with two counts of homicide as an adult, Brown is due in court March 24 for a preliminary hearing.

Brown's uncle described him as a typical 11-year-old boy who likes video games, football and dirt bikes and adores his father.

Prosecutors believe Brown was jealous of Houk and having trouble adjusting to their blended family when she and her two daughters moved in. They say he shot Houk in the head as she lay in bed at the family's rented home in New Galilee.

Dr. Paul Friday, head of clinical psychology at UPMC Shadyside, believes it's important to understand that the human brain does not fully develop until about age 25.

"Normal people know when crazy ideas are crazy," he said. "Does he understand the difference between good and bad? Yes, probably. But the chances of an 11-year-old understanding consequences in the same way he would when he is 21 is nonexistent."

If convicted as charged, Brown would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. If that happens, he could be the youngest American ever to receive such a sentence.

"We know of eight cases where 13-year-olds were sentenced to life in prison without parole, but our research shows no evidence of any children under 13, ever," said Michelle Leighton, the director of Human Rights Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. "He would be the youngest."

Leighton co-authored the 2008 study "Sentencing Our Children to Die in Prison," which shows the United States is the only country that sentences juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Pennsylvania has more juvenile lifers than any state.

In Pennsylvania, anyone 10 or older charged with homicide automatically starts in adult court. Defense attorneys can petition to move such cases to juvenile court. Brown's attorney, Dennis Elisco, has vowed to do so.

There is precedent for granting such a move:

• In 2007, an Elizabeth Township girl who said she fatally shot her father because he sexually abused her had her case moved to juvenile court. Last year, Rachel Booth, who was 13 when she stood over her sleeping father with a 12-gauge shotgun and shot him in the face, reached a plea deal with prosecutors allowing her to avoid jail.

• D.L. Timothy Fullum of Homewood had his case moved to juvenile court in 2004. He was 16 when he fatally stabbed his friend, Israel Cyrus, 15, during a scuffle as the two walked along a street. In juvenile court, he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and held at a juvenile facility until he turned 21.

When Elisco petitions to transfer Brown's case, Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo will have to decide whether to fight such a move.

"I have not made a decision yet," Bongivengo said. "It's something I'm definitely struggling with. Whatever decision I make, I'm probably going to be uncomfortable with it. I've got to make a decision that I can live with."

Houk's family wants Brown tried as an adult. They believe the slayings were calculated and accuse Brown of threatening to "pop" Houk and her daughters at least two months before the killing. They called him a skilled shooter who understood the consequences of pulling the trigger.

"There's no kid in him," said Jack Houk, Kenzie Houk's father.

"He was a miserable child," said Jennifer Kraner, 32, the slain woman's sister. "We tried to love him. But there was some sort of issue."

Leighton thinks it would be "morally reprehensible" to try an 11-year-old as an adult.

"This child is obviously extraordinarily disturbed and troubled -- that's evident by his actions -- but that does not make him an adult," she said. "We can't pretend that they are adults. No other country does that. It doesn't make any sense. It doesn't bring back the dead, and it doesn't help anyone."

Dr. Anthony Mannarino, director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children at Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side, said an 11-year-old is more likely to be impulsive than rational.

Bongivengo has said he will not pursue charges against Brown's father, Christopher Brown, for allowing the boy access to guns. But, Mannarino cautioned, mixing the unpredictability of youth with access to a firearm is a dangerous combination.

"We all have that thought of wanting to kill someone once in awhile, but as adults we think it through and we don't act on it," Mannarino said. "An 11-year-old is more likely to follow through on an emotional thought. And to give them access to a gun is really a mistake.

"That's one of the tragedies in this situation. If the kid did not have a gun, this doesn't happen."


Judge Pirro on the Jordan Anthony Brown Murder Case

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Should an 11-year-old who allegedly kills a 26-year-old pregnant woman and mother of two with a shotgun be charged as an adult? The facts are simple. An 11-year-old received a shotgun as a gift for Christmas from his dad. He was a good shot, and won a turkey shoot less than two weeks before the shooting, beating out several adults. The victim was his father's girlfriend who was pregnant with his father's child. The boy and his father were living in the same home with the victim and her two daughters, just seven and four years old.

The issue of children being prosecuted as adults has always been controversial. Our belief that children should be treated differently stems from a society trying to protect those who are young and capable of reform. On the other hand, there are those who believe the punishment should fit the crime, not the criminal.

The United States Supreme Court has held that the purpose of juvenile courts is to seek rehabilitation, supervision or provide counseling. Treatment of juveniles is usually more lenient than for adults. The purpose is to protect youth and guide them to more productive lives, while still holding them accountable to some degree for their actions. Juvenile court proceedings are generally private and held in rooms separate from adult courtrooms. If the offender is found delinquent, a probation officer prepares a more detailed report recommending a sentence. The harshest treatment is a sentence in a locked juvenile facility.

Historically, the fact that children were treated differently often caused a deprivation of their rights. The United States Supreme Court in 1967 dealt with this issue in a landmark case (In re Gault). There, a 15-year-old was arrested for making dirty remarks over the telephone. He was arrested and kept in custody. His parents were not advised that he was in police custody nor were they advised of the charges against him. He was held in a detention facility for a week. No record of the proceeding was kept; and the witness to whom he made the call didn't even appear in court. He was sentenced to spend the next six years in a state school until he was 21 years old. His parents were poor, did not have a high school education and only had $100, but pursued the matter and took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, the highest court in the land, extending rights to children that adults customarily had, overturned his conviction.

Once a decision is made to prosecute a juvenile as an adult, the case is transferred to an adult court. Such a transfer can have serious sentencing consequences - the juvenile can be sentenced to life or even death (if over 18 years old at the time of sentencing).

In the case at hand, the District Attorney in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania has made the decision to prosecute this 11-year-old as an adult. He bases this on the theory that the crime was "premeditated," in that the boy first came downstairs with a weapon and was seen by the victim's seven-year-old daughter. He reversed course, went back to his room, and put a blanket over the gun. He then returned to the first floor bedroom where his victim was sleeping and shot her in the back of the head. There are reports that the 11-year-old had threatened to kill his victim and her daughters for months. His callous action -- throwing a spent shell casing from his shotgun, before getting on a bus to go to school, was witnessed by the seven-year-old girl. That shell casing was later recovered by the police.

The decision to prosecute a child as an adult is a difficult one. I know. I have made the decision to prosecute a 12-year-old killer as an adult. The choice is not about being "hard" or being compassionate. It is about recognizing the evil that accompanies a killer's choice to take the life of an innocent pregnant woman and mother of two, whose children will never get to hug their mother again because an angry "boy" with a gun decided she should die.


An 11-year-old is simply not an adult

By Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Even on good days, the criminal justice system doesn't do nuance. To respond to criminal allegations with logic or common sense would require employing people with operating brains to run a system where conscience is considered an impediment to justice.

We're comfortable with the injustice that often results from this laziness. In a system as susceptible to trickery as ours, we're willing to live with daily miscarriages of justice in the name of a higher social order.

Being found guilty or innocent by a jury usually settles the question of law, but that's not the same thing as saying -- or believing -- justice has been done.

We're content to let God or karma sort the truly guilty from the innocent on Judgment Day. Even an invisible finger running across the abacus of fate is considered better than laws that give too much discretion to judges or juries to do the right thing.

What we can't afford is a system that treats defendants as individuals standing before the bar of justice under unique circumstances. Jurisprudence built on compassion would only lead to an anarchy of fairness.

Ask 11-year-old homicide suspect Jordan Anthony Brown about the law. Chances are he wouldn't understand the question.

The Mohawk Area School District fifth-grader is sitting in a bare 10-foot-by-10-foot cell in Lawrence County. At 4-foot-8, he is too small to fit in a prison uniform that doesn't envelop him like a shroud.

The Lawrence County boy is charged with killing Kenzie Marie Houk, his father's 26-year-old pregnant girlfriend, in the home they shared. Jordan is accused of shooting the woman carrying his unborn half-brother with the same 20-gauge shotgun he used to win a turkey shoot the week before. He faces the possibility of life in prison.

After the shooting on Friday, the boy and Ms. Houk's 7-year-old daughter eventually caught the bus to school. The little girl didn't see her mother's murder. If Jordan Brown considered shooting Ms. Houk in the back of the head a premeditated act of murder, he didn't show it.

We don't know if the boy was as cool as a cucumber as he sat in class that morning or merely oblivious to the moral and legal implications of his act. Most 11-year-olds would have a difficult time understanding what it means to spend the remainder of their childhood and, possibly, the rest of their lives in prison.

Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo is correct to bemoan his lack of discretion in everything from where he can place Jordan Brown -- adult jail versus a juvenile facility -- to what he is obligated to charge him as -- an adult or a child. As he said in the Post-Gazette yesterday, the complexities and tragedy of this case are "enough to make me throw up."

If the U.S. Supreme Court hadn't decided 21 years ago that children under 18 convicted of murder couldn't be executed because of prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, Jordan Brown would also be facing the death penalty. There's no way an 11-year-old could understand the prospect of the state putting him to death. The very possibility would constitute torture for someone that young.

If Jordan Brown pulled the trigger killing Ms. Houk and her unborn child, he will be haunted by a murderous act that will define him for the rest of his life. That isn't something most of us with relatively minor regrets in this life could possibly imagine.

Assuming Jordan is convicted and only held in custody in a juvenile facility until he turns 21, he will have floated through his teen years with the sign of Cain indelibly stamped on his forehead.

How would Jordan Brown emerge from that? What are his chances of fitting into society with any semblance of normality when his first shave and his first outbreak of acne happened behind bars?

I don't pretend to know everything that should be done in this case, but it seems obvious to me that Jordan Brown shouldn't be tried as an adult because he isn't an adult. The law should be flexible and logical enough to acknowledge this simple fact. It doesn't seem to be, according to Mr. Bongivengo.

If Jordan Brown is tried, doesn't it make more sense for him to face an experienced judge in juvenile court? If he is found guilty of murder, there is no doubt that he should face justice.

But justice that doesn't include at least a decade of psychological rehabilitation and years of counseling into adulthood isn't justice at all.

Should a boy who barely knows the difference between right and wrong suffer forever because idiot politicians find it easier to write draconian laws proving how tough they are?


Funeral on Tuesday for New Beaver woman and unborn child

By Jen Vernet Pajewski -

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NEW CASTLE — Funeral services will be held today for a pregnant New Beaver woman who was shot and killed Friday while she lay in bed, the victim, prosecutors say, of her fiance’s 11-year-old son, who was jealous of their relationship.

The joint service for Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, and her unborn baby, named Christopher Allen Houk-Brown, will be at 8 p.m. in the William F. and Roger M. DeCarbo Funeral Home, 926 Cunningham Ave., New Castle.

Eleven-year-old Jordan Anthony Brown, the son of Houk’s fiance, Christopher Brown, is charged as an adult with homicide and homicide of an unborn child, accused of shooting the woman with his shotgun at close range. Houk died from a wound to the back of her head; the baby died from a lack of oxygen.

Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo said Monday that the working theory in the case is that the boy was jealous of his father’s fiancee and her daughters.

“It was just him and his dad all of his life, and then he’s living with this woman and her daughters and there’s a new baby on the way,” he said.

“It’s a potential theory right now.”

Bongivengo would not say whether the boy has confessed to the shooting.

The family previously told The Associated Press that the boy was jealous of Houk and had threatened to harm her and her daughters, Adalynne, 4, and Jenessa, 7.

“This is tragic in every sense of the word. Tragic and scary at the same time. To imagine that an 11-year-old is capable of doing this,” Bongivengo said.

Adalynne found her mother’s body around 9:30 a.m. Friday and alerted Steve Cable of Brighton Township, who was working to clear firewood at the Wampum-New Galilee Road cattle farm. Houk and Brown rented the farmhouse and moved in about four months ago with her daughters and Jordan Brown, according to neighbors. Police were called and learned that Chris Brown left for work around 7 a.m. Police have reported that Kenzie Houk was shot around 8 a.m.

State police interviewed Jordan Brown and Houk’s older daughter, Jenessa, earlier in the day Friday, but investigators said Jordan Brown offered conflicting descriptions of a black truck he reported seeing on the property.

The conflict caused police to reinterview Jenessa, who told police that Jordan Brown had a shotgun covered in a blanket Friday morning and she heard a “big boom” prior to the pair leaving for school.

She told officers she asked Jordan Brown about the source of the sound, but he would not answer. Police arrested Jordan Brown based on the information provided by the girl.

According to a search warrant filed Friday, police found the gun outside the boy’s bedroom, along with a blue blanket with a hole the size of a quarter and burn marks.

Jordan Brown’s father confirmed that it belonged to the boy, according to court records.

The girl also told investigators that she saw Jordan Brown toss something on the snow next to their driveway. Bongivengo said police found a spent shotgun shell in the yard.

Since he was arrested early Saturday, Jordan Brown has been in isolation in the Lawrence County Jail because of his age. He is being kept in a cell that usually is reserved for inmates on suicide watch, or those who have disciplinary or other issues that require more close attention from the guards.

Jordan Brown is being monitored every 15 minutes.

Many, including the jail warden, believe the boy belongs in a facility better equipped to deal with his needs.

David Gettings, president of the Lawrence County Prison Board, said he initiated discussions Saturday to move Brown, the youngest person ever housed at the Lawrence County Jail.

“It’s not up to us,” Gettings said. “It’s up to a judge. He is charged with a capital crime, and it’s our duty to the public.”

As of Monday afternoon, the boy remained in the jail. A bail hearing is scheduled for March 2.

Contrary to what has been reported elsewhere, the boy is able to shower and his needs are being met, Gettings said.

“Frankly, I’m disheartened that we’re even discussing this,” Gettings said. “This is not good, not for the boy and not for society.

“This is an ugly, ugly situation.”

Dennis Elisco, Jordan Brown’s attorney, said Saturday that he would try to have the case moved to juvenile court.

Bongivengo said it’s tough to say whether he will contest Elisco’s request.

“You have to listen to everybody. If an 11-year-old is a monster now, then he’ll be a monster when he’s 21 and free,” he said. “That’s a real concern, and it has to be taken into consideration.

“There is no right answer here. No winner. It’s a tough balance."


Experts Disagree On Adult Homicide Charge For 11-Year-Old Suspect

Boy Accused In Lawrence County Murder

February 23, 2009

PITTSBURGH, Pa.The 11-year-old boy accused of killing Kenzie Houk sits in the Lawrence County Jail.

Pennsylvania law requires that any child 10 and older accused in a homicide must be charged as an adult.

It's a rule that puts prosecutors at odds with mental health experts.

Dr. Lawson Bernstein is a clinical and forensic psychiatrist who's consulted on numerous criminal investigations.

He said that charging 11-year-old Jordan Brown as an adult in the killing presents many difficult questions based on a child's level of understanding.

"An 11-year-old brain is not as mature," said Dr. Berstein. "The frontal lobes don't work as well, which is seed of the brain involving planning and the ability to realize outcome, including adverse outcome."

The boy's attorney has been working to get the case transferred to a juvenile court, and to get him out on bond and out of the Lawrence County Jail.

"Our jail, like any jail, is not equipped for children that young," said Dennis Elisco, Brown's attorney. "But he's a typical 11-year-old kid and he's devastated."

The district attorney said he has enough evidence to keep Jordan held as an adult.

A 20-gauge shotgun was seized from his bedroom, as well as a blanket with a hole in it and burn marks that may have been used to conceal the weapon.

They also have statements from the victim's 7-year-old daughter.

"She puts him in the house, puts the gun in his hands, hears the bang," said John Bongivengo, Lawrence County District Attorney.

But Berstein believes a focus must also remain on whether or not the fifth grade boy truly understood the consequences of his actions.

Berstein asked, "Do they understand that if you pull the trigger of gun and a bullet is discharged and it strikes somebody else that they will be harmed? Yes, I think most kids would generally understand that. Do they understand the enormity of the decision they are making? Then by definition, no. They don't understand it in a cause and effect way that adults would."

Even if convicted in an adult court, laws forbid the death penalty for anyone under 18 years of age.

The worst Jordan Brown could face is life in prison.


Boy (11) accused of killing father's pregnant girfriend

Otago Daily Times

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fifth-grader Jordan Brown boarded the bus and headed to school like he does most other mornings in the rural western Pennsylvania community of Wampum. But Friday was no typical morning.

Before he left his rented farmhouse, authorities say, the 11-year-old fatally shot his father's pregnant fiancee in the back of the head as she lay in bed. He then put his youth model 20-gauge shotgun back in his room and went out to catch his bus, police say.

Brown was charged Saturday as an adult in the death of 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk, who was eight months pregnant, Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo said. Houk's fetus died within minutes due to a lack of oxygen, Lawrence County Coroner Russell Noga said.

The death and charges against Brown caught family and friends by surprise and left Wampum, about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, to ponder what would possess a boy to allegedly shoot someone.

Houk's family and friends, who gathered at her parents' house Saturday night, told The Associated Press that there had been past problems with the boy.

"He actually told my son that he wanted to do that to her," Houk's brother-in-law, Jason Kraner said. "There was an issue with jealousy."

Pennsylvania State Police found Houk's body after her 4-year-old daughter told tree cutters on the property she thought her mother was dead, Bongivengo said.

The boy told police there was a black truck on the property that morning - possibly the man who feeds the cows - sending investigators to follow a false lead for about five hours, Bongivengo said. Inconsistencies in Brown's description of the truck led police to re-interview Houk's 7-year-old daughter, who implicated the boy in the killing, Bongivengo said. State troopers came to get the boy at school.

"She didn't actually eyewitness the shooting. She saw him with what she believed to be a shotgun and heard a loud bang," Bongivengo said. The gun was found in a "location we believe to be in the defendant's bedroom."

Brown has been arraigned and was being held in the Lawrence County Jail, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday.

"An 11-year-old kid - what would give him the motive to shoot someone?" Houk's father Jack said. "Maybe he was just jealous of my daughter and the baby and thought he would be overpowered."

Defense attorney Dennis Elisco said he plans to ask Monday for the boy to be released on bail and for the case to moved to juvenile court. Elisco and police said they had no clear motive for the shooting.

Elisco said he is waiting to see physical evidence that ties his young client to the killing.

"I don't think he knows what's going on," he said. "I walked out of there thinking he was innocent. I believe Jordan did not do this."

The boy's father, Christopher Brown, is "a mess" and had no prior indication his son had a problem with Houk, Elisco said.

"He's in a state of actual shock and disbelief," he said.

The shotgun used is designed for children and has a shorter arm and such weapons do not have to be registered, Bongivengo said. Jack Houk, 57, said the boy and his father used to practice shooting behind their farmhouse, and the two enjoyed going hunting together.


Boy Shoots Dad's Pregnant Fiancee Before School, Police Say

Associated Press

Sunday, February 22, 2009

WAMPUM, Pa. — Fifth-grader Jordan Brown boarded the bus and headed to school like he did most other mornings in this rural western Pennsylvania community.

But before he left home on Friday, authorities say, the 11-year-old boy had shot his father's pregnant fiancee in the back of the head as she lay in bed. He then put his youth model 20-gauge shotgun back in his room before going out to catch his bus, police say.

Brown was charged Saturday as an adult in the death of 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk, who was eight months pregnant, Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo said. Houk's fetus died within minutes due to a lack of oxygen, Lawrence County Coroner Russell Noga said.

Houk's family and friends, who gathered at her parents' house Saturday night, told The Associated Press that there had been past problems with the boy.

The boy's father, Christopher Brown, is "a mess" and had no indication his son had a problem with Houk, Elisco said.

"He's in a state of actual shock and disbelief," he said.

The shotgun used is designed for children and has a shorter arm and such weapons do not have to be registered, Bongivengo said. Jack Houk, 57, said the boy and his father used to practice shooting behind their farmhouse, and the two enjoyed going hunting together.



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