Boy Who Fatally Shot Playmate Is Acquitted

A 13-year-old Pearblossom boy, who shot and killed a 10-year-old playmate last October, was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter Thursday by a Juvenile Court judge who said prosecutors failed to prove their case.

Prosecutors initially charged the boy, who was 12 at the time of the shooting, with first-degree murder. They reduced the charge to manslaughter on the first day of the trial two weeks ago because they did not believe the boy intended to kill Thomas Hernandez, whom he had met two days before the shooting.

Sylmar Juvenile Court Judge Morton Rochman said Deputy Dist. Atty. Chesley McKay, who prosecuted the boy, failed to prove that the youth exhibited gross negligence when he fired his father's loaded antique shotgun last Oct. 22, hitting Hernandez in the head. A finding of gross negligence--meaning that the boy could have known the possible consequences of his actions--was required to prove the boy guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

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