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14-Year-Old Charged With Murder of Girl

Times Staff Writer

A Newhall teen-ager accused of strangling a 7-year-old girl to death, then hiding her body in his bedroom for four days, was charged Tuesday with one count of first-degree murder, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office said.

The 14-year-old, whose identity is being withheld because of his age, is scheduled to be arraigned today in Sylmar Juvenile Court, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Michelle R. Rosenblatt.

An autopsy has determined that the victim, Sara Nan Hodges, died of strangulation, but test results were pending on whether she was sexually assaulted, authorities said.

The suspect was arrested late Sunday after the girl’s body was found stuffed between a wall and the headboard of a water bed in one of two rooms the boy and his mother rent in the 24900 block of Alderbrook Drive. Sara, who lived five doors away, had been missing since Thursday afternoon.

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The girl’s fully clothed body was found by the boy’s landlady, who was looking for the source of a sickening smell. Authorities said the boy had set up a fan in the bedroom to blow the odor out an open window.

Because of juvenile privacy laws, Rosenblatt said she would not discuss reports that the boy had committed burglaries in Florida, where he previously lived with his father. The boy moved to Newhall in February to stay with his mother, authorities said.

Rosenblatt said the youth will ultimately face an adjudication hearing before a Juvenile Court judge. The hearing is similar to a criminal court trial except that a judge instead of a jury decides the defendant’s guilt or innocence, Rosenblatt said.

Although he cannot be tried as an adult, the teen-ager, if convicted, could serve time in the California Youth Authority until he is 25. Authorities said to be tried as an adult in California, the defendant must be 16 or older.

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