9-Year-Old Charged With Five Murders
A nine-year-old has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder stemming from a fire this spring in Goodfield, Illinois. The town is about 150 miles to the southwest of Chicago.
A 34-year-old man, 69-year-old woman, and three children (a one-year-old and two two-year-olds) were killed in the April 6 fire in the Timberline mobile home park. Authorities say the child intentionally started the blaze to kill the five people inside. The 9-year-old, whose gender was not revealed, has also been charged with one count of aggravated arson and two counts of arson. The child's identity and their relationship to the victims were not revealed.
Greg Minger, Woodford county state's attorney, told the Associated Press the decision to charge the 9-year-old was,
a heavy decision. It's a tragedy but at the end of the day, it's charging a very young person with one of the most serious crimes we have. But I just think it needs to be done at this point, for finality.
Betsy Clark, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, says
The charges are completely out of line, given everything we have learned ... especially about the brain development of children.
According to Clark, in many countries, the minimum age for criminal responsibility is 14.
Illinois law doesn't allow anyone under age 10 to be detained. The child will have a bench trial, in front of a judge. If convicted, because of their age, the child would likely be put on probation, but not past age 21. Counseling and therapy would also be likely.
A database compiled by Northeastern University, USA Today, and the Associated Press shows the child is the youngest accused in the mass killing of at least four people in the U.S. since 2006.