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Attempted murder case, in which Manchester 14-year-old allegedly had ‘kill list,’ moved to juvenile court

A 14-year-old Manchester girl previously charged as an adult for charges including attempted first-degree murder after she allegedly struck a sleeping man with a hammer will now have her case heard in juvenile court.

Judge Fred S. Hecker ruled to move the case to juvenile court in a hearing Friday. By Maryland law, if a 14-year-old is charged with first-degree murder or attempted murder, they are automatically charged as an adult. The law also provides for the defense to request a reverse waiver hearing so the judge can consider whether to move the case to juvenile court.

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The girl was 14 years and 2 days old when the alleged crime occurred. She faces charges of attempted first- and second-degree murder, first-degree assault, conspiring to commit first-degree murder, and possessing a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, according to online court records. Hecker said she will continue to be held in custody.

The state does not have the right to appeal, according to State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo, meaning the girl’s case will remain in the juvenile system.

The girl entered the courtroom Friday with handcuffs around her hands and feet, standing a few inches over 5 feet tall. Her hair was pulled back in two French braids and she wore an over-sized gray sweatshirt. Tears dripped from her face at several points during the hearing, showing to Hecker that she was not indifferent to the day’s proceedings, he said.

The victim, who was taken to Shock Trauma in Baltimore after the incident, appeared in court Friday. He conveyed to the prosecution he did not wish to speak in court, but he wished for the case to be moved to juvenile court, said Sandra Johnson, a prosecutor for the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Hecker said there were five factors he had to weigh to make his decision: the girl’s age, her mental health and physical condition, her amenability to treatment, the nature of the alleged crime, and public safety.

Her physical stature certainly seemed to match her age, in Hecker’s view and in the opinion of a case management specialist from the Department of Juvenile Services. “She looks like a little girl to me,” Hecker said.

The girl’s attorney, Craig Ross, argued that she was not the “ringleader" in the case and that she would be amenable to mental health treatment in the juvenile system.

“We have to understand a 14-year-old mind is still developing,” Ross said. “We are almost condemning her to a harsher life than need be because she is a juvenile.”

Ross alleged the girl was influenced by her 13-year-old boyfriend, who allegedly stabbed the victim with a knife. Johnson argued that the girl took part in planning the alleged attempted murder.

“She walked to the house,” Johnson said. “She waited in the bushes until it was clear to go in.”

Johnson alleged Ross was “trying to blame everything” on the 13-year-old boy.

“In the eyes of the law, for the purpose of this hearing, she is an adult,” Johnson said.

If the boyfriend has been charged, then the case would be in juvenile court, where records are sealed.

Johnson and Ross both declined to comment after the hearing.

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Despite ‘thin record,’ defense prevails

The question of the girl’s amenability to treatment came under the greatest dispute in the two-hour hearing.

Ross called the girl’s grandmother and a case manager from the Department of Juvenile Services to testify.

The grandmother spoke to the girl’s upbringing. She lived with her grandparents since before her first birthday because her parents were incarcerated and were drug abusers, the grandmother said. The girl maintained good grades and took honors classes at a Carroll County middle school, but her grades slipped in the months leading up to the alleged attempted murder, the grandmother said.

The girl received counseling for depression at a young age for about six months, then chose not to continue when her preferred counselor left the practice, according to her grandmother.

The grandparents planned to have the girl evaluated for possible medication to treat depression after she underwent surgery for a physical ailment, the grandmother said.

Despite the girl allegedly having a “kill list” with her grandparents’ names on it, the grandmother said she would welcome her back into their home and did not have reason to believe she was capable of the violence she’s been accused of committing.

The girl communicates with her father occasionally but had not spoken to her mother in about three years, according to the grandmother.

The Department of Juvenile Services recommended the girl’s case be moved to juvenile court, according to the case manager Ross invited to testify.

The case manager who evaluated the girl after the alleged attempted murder noted the girl had been taking medication for depression and anxiety since being admitted to a juvenile detention facility. The girl was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, though the case manager did not know what event or events might have led to the disorder.

Ross and Johnson questioned the case manager about the options for mental health treatment available to offenders in the juvenile system. The case manager could not guarantee what programs the girl would be accepted into or whether they’d be in or out of the state, and was unsure of what needs the girl might have because she had yet to undergo a psychological assessment.

Ross argued the girl would be best served in the juvenile system.

“She belongs in the adult system,” Johnson countered.

Johnson argued that the defense failed to prove what mental health needs the girl might have and that whatever needs may come to light could be treated through the adult system.

Hecker asked for a moment to think, and the courtroom sat silent for five minutes before he launched into an explanation of his decision.

The factors concerning the nature of the crime and public safety made Hecker lean toward keeping the girl’s case in adult court, he said. But “despite the thin record” the defense provided, Hecker believed the girl would be amenable to treatment in the juvenile system.

A few people sitting behind the girl in court gasped and seemed to breathe sighs of relief.

Hecker wondered how a girl with no apparent history of violence came to be a defendant in an attempted murder case.

If she were convicted in adult court, the girl could live with “the stain of a felony conviction” for life, which would not be the case in juvenile court, Hecker said.

As the girl was escorted out of the courtroom, she turned to the adults who sat behind her, waved and mouthed the words, “Love you.”

The allegations

The girl and her boyfriend attacked a 56-year-old relative of his with a hammer and knife Nov. 25 after another relative left for work, according to charging documents. After the attack, the victim was able to call 911, Jennifer Brady, senior assistant state’s attorney, said at a Nov. 26 bail review hearing for the girl.

The teens had a “kill list" and planned to murder the boyfriend’s relative, the girl’s grandparents, and “possibly others,” Brady said. There was a “murder-suicide plot” in which the girl planned to ask her boyfriend to kill her once their list was complete, Brady said.

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Sheriff’s Office deputies responding to the Manchester residence where the assault occurred at about 5:20 a.m. found the teens on the roof, wearing blood-stained clothing and holding knives in their hands, according to charging documents. Police told them to drop their knives, and they did, then they were taken into custody, the documents say.

The boyfriend told police he had been texting the girl Nov. 24 about killing his relative, then going to her residence and killing her grandparents, according to charging documents. While the boyfriend was texting and calling her, she walked from her home to his with a backpack of belongings, the documents say.

According to the documents, the boyfriend hid the girl in the basement of the victim’s home until the other relative left for work, then she got a hammer from the boyfriend’s bedroom and went to the victim’s bedroom.

The boyfriend told police that he heard a “blood curdling” scream, then he went to the bedroom and saw blood spurting out of the victim’s head, the charging documents say. The boyfriend then stabbed the victim in the back of the neck, according to charging documents.

The documents also state that the boyfriend told police that he and the girl also planned to kill her grandparents before leaving for Canada.

The girl gave a similar account to police, also saying the two were going to kill her grandparents then flee by car, according to charging documents.

Brady said in court that the teens had a large amount of money and an overnight bag with them when they were arrested.

Of the attack, the girl said she went into the victim’s bedroom with a night light to see in the dark and held the hammer with both hands as she brought it down on the victim’s head, according to charging documents.

Brady said in court that the girl struck the victim with the hammer “multiple times.”

The victim screamed, the girl dropped the hammer and she ran back to her boyfriend’s bedroom, the documents say. The boyfriend then went into the victim’s bedroom with a curved knife to kill the victim, according to charging documents.

The victim fought them off, the teens went to the roof and the girl said they did not run because they heard the police coming, the documents say.

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