D.A. Will File Murder Charge Against Suspect in Dana Point Beach Shooting

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Orange County district attorney's office said Tuesday that it will file a murder charge against a Dana Hills High School student who allegedly shot a Capistrano Beach youth to death over the weekend.

When the 16-year-old Laguna Niguel youth appears before a Juvenile Court judge in Orange today, prosecutors will recommend that he be tried as an adult, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kathi Harper said. Unless there are mitigating circumstances, prosecutors routinely make such recommendations when 16- or 17-year-olds are accused of murder, Harper said.

Harper said she does not believe the killing of 18-year-old Robert James Elliott at Dana Strand beach was gang-related. Several witnesses and friends of the two youths had claimed that the killing was connected to "skinhead" gangs in the area.

Harper declined to comment specifically on the case, beyond saying that "these are extremely serious charges."

The suspect, a junior at Dana Hills High School who has not been identified because of his age, has been in police custody at Juvenile Hall in Orange since Saturday, when the shooting occurred.

Witnesses said Elliott and the suspect had been feuding over a broken window in Elliott's truck. The younger boy reportedly had smashed the window with a baseball bat about three weeks ago.

On Saturday, after an argument between the two youths, the younger boy walked away, and Elliott pursued him, demanding money in payment for the broken window, according to witnesses.

The younger boy drew a gun, turned and pulled the trigger, witnesses said. The gun did not fire until the 16-year-old squeezed the trigger a second time, witnesses said.

Several neighbors said the 16-year-old had expressed an "intense fear" of Elliott and his friends.

One neighbor, who lives in the same apartment complex, said she spoke to the youth almost daily, adding that he appeared to be confused.

"He was agitated about something," the neighbor said. "He hadn't been himself for the past few months. Nobody would take time to listen."

Several neighbors said they plan to start a fund to raise money for the youth's defense.

The Selva Road apartment rented by the suspect's family for the last three years remained unoccupied Tuesday. A next-door neighbor said the youth's parents had moved to Los Angeles with their 11-year-old son and left a message that they did not wish to comment on the incident.

Elliott's family and friends disputed reports that Elliott had threatened the suspect.

"My boy wanted the money for his broken window," said Stephen Elliott, the victim's father. "He was no skinhead. He was no inner-city kid. He was just a hard-working young man who wanted to make it in life."

Times correspondents Cherylanne Bealer and Frank Messina contributed to this report.

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