Two boys who won support from residents of their small town after saying they killed their sleeping father to end years of abuse got off nearly scot-free under a plea bargain Tuesday.
Brothers Herman and Druie Dutton, ages 15 and 12, respectively, pleaded no contest to juvenile charges of first-degree manslaughter.
The case will not be formally decided until April 7, 1996, and then the charges will be dismissed if the boys have broken no other laws, defense lawyers explained after a closed Juvenile Court hearing.
“They’ll never be found guilty of anything. They will never have a record of any wrongdoing,” said Robert Perrine, who represented Druie.
Dist. Atty. Gene Christian defended the plea agreement, saying incarceration would serve no purpose.
The brothers told authorities that Herman held a rifle to the head of Lonnie Dutton, 39, while he napped on July 12, and that Druie pulled the trigger.
They said they acted after their 10-year-old sister confided that Dutton had molested her.
Relatives and other adults say Dutton, of Rush Springs, had physically and mentally abused all four of his children. In addition to Herman, Druie and the sister, there is an 8-year-old brother.
Shortly after the brothers were arrested, 200 people filled a school auditorium for a town meeting in support of the boys.
“These children deserve to get off, as would anybody who was subjected to the horror that went on in that trailer,” said attorney James Percival, who represented Herman.
The brothers remain wards of the court and are living in “therapeutic foster homes,” where they receive counseling, the lawyers said. The amount of contact they have with each other and the rest of their extended family is up to their therapists. Their siblings are living with an aunt.
The boys could remain wards of the court until turning 18, or the court could appoint guardians.