A 10-year-old boy has been charged with murder in the death of a 25-year-old mother of three who was shot in the head while tucking her 8-year-old son into bed, the district attorney's office announced Friday.
The boy was arraigned Thursday in Juvenile Court on charges of murder and shooting into an inhabited dwelling, said Carlos Armour, who heads the juvenile division of the district attorney's office. The boy remained in custody Friday at Juvenile Hall.
"We think there's evidence here where he can be found guilty (of murder)," Armour said. "We think it's one of the offenses we can prove in trial."
A judge will decide the exact charge--ranging from involuntary manslaughter all the way up to first-degree murder--when and if the case gets to trial, Armour said.
On March 24, the boy's defense lawyer and prosecuting attorneys will hold a conference to try and hammer out a resolution before the case goes to court, but if the meeting proves unsuccessful then a trial date could be set sometime within the following month, Armour said. At that point, the judge will decide both whether the boy is guilty, and, if so, of what charge.
"Depending on how the evidence comes in and whether the court feels the shooting was intentional or accidental will determine the degree of murder he'll face," Armour said. "There's a range here all the way from first-degree murder to an acquittal. . . . It will be up to the judge to decide."
A first-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for adults, but a juvenile can be kept in custody only until the age of 25, Armour said.
A murder conviction also would leave authorities with the task of ironing out where the boy would serve his sentence, which could become controversial because of his age, Armour said. He pointed out that it's already difficult to get the California Youth Authority to admit juveniles as old as 14 into the state's juvenile detention center.
Armour, who has worked at the juvenile division for the last five years, described the case as rare.
"We don't charge that many 10-year-olds with felonies to begin with, and to charge one with murder is rare," Armour said.
Police arrested the youth on Wednesday in connection with the murder of Manuela Garcia de la Rosa, who was killed Sunday night when a bullet pierced the wall of the Barrio Logan trailer where she lived with her family.
On Thursday, the boy's mother. Marta, said her son admitted firing the shot that killed Garcia but said he was only trying to hit a light inside the trailer, not hurt anyone.
The mother and neighbors also said the boy was considered the terror of the neighborhood, a scrawler of gang graffiti who roamed the streets until as late as 4 a.m. and who already had been kicked out of two elementary schools.
Police said the boy and two male companions, ages 13 and 14, were shooting a .22-caliber handgun on a roof near the Garcias' trailer.