He was 14 years old when authorities say he fatally shot his father and then drove to a nearby schoolyard, firing into the playground during recess and killing a 6-year-old boy. Should he now be tried as an adult? A hearing starts Monday in South Carolina to answer this question.
Prosecutors want the teenager to stand trial on two counts of murder in adult court, where defendants face lengthy sentences if convicted of violent felonies.
South Carolina’s Supreme Court has banned life sentences for juveniles, but other teenage murder convicts have been sentenced in adult courts to 30- and 40-year terms.
The defense wants to keep the case in juvenile court, where convicts are kept behind bars until they turn 21.
The Associated Press is not using the defendant’s name because he has not been charged as an adult, but testimony at the hearing could shed some light on the chain of events that led to the September 2016 killings. The hearing could last several days.
According to authorities, the teenager fatally shot his 47-year-old father at their home, then drove his father’s pickup truck to Townville Elementary School, where he rammed a fence surrounding the playground where first graders were at recess.
Screaming “I hate my life!” the teen fired several times at the playground, investigators said, hitting two students and a teacher. Six-year-old Jacob Hall died from blood loss from his leg wound, authorities said. Another child and a teacher survived their wounds.
Along with two counts of murder, the teenager is charged with three counts of attempted murder and five counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
Jacob Hall was dressed as Batman at his funeral. His mother, dressed as Robin, asked everyone to come as their favorite heroes. Captain Americas and Wonder Women filed past his small blue casket, along with Supermen and Supergirls, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers.
Calls to 911 suggest the carnage could have been worse. A teacher told the emergency operator the teen was standing just five feet (1.5 meters) from the first graders as they tried to get back in the school but didn’t fire or try to force his way inside.
“When she was trying to get all the children in, he was standing right behind the kids and he just threw his arms up and he was saying, he gave up, he gave up,” the caller said.