The San Diego County district attorney said Monday he will seek to try the teenager accused of killing five members of his family as an adult, although as a 15-year-old the youth would not be subject to the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
“This is a level of gruesomeness that is virtually indescribable,” Dist. Atty. Paul Pfingst said. “I see no argument why someone who commits such serial murders should not be tried as an adult.”
For each murder count, the teenager could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Joshua Bradley Jenkins used a hammer, a kitchen knife and an ax to kill his grandparents, parents and sister in the grandparents’ upscale condominium, and then dragged their bodies into the master bedroom before setting the condo on fire about 4 p.m. Saturday, investigators said.
The youth’s parents, George and Aileen Jenkins of Las Vegas, and Aileen Jenkins’ parents, Bill and Lynne Grossman, were killed Friday night or Saturday morning in their sleep. Joshua then allegedly took his sister, Megan, 10, for a drive and brought her back to the condominium before killing her with an ax blow to the head, investigators said.
Neighbors said Joshua, who fled in the family’s Mercedes-Benz, had been placed in private school in Southern California because of his unpredictable, unruly and sometimes violent behavior. Neighbors of the Grossmans recalled that the husky teenager could switch moods quickly, from friendly to threatening.
“They went through an awful lot with that boy,” said Mallory Zimmerman, a neighbor of the Jenkinses in Las Vegas. “They tried everything, but he would get so violent sometimes they knew they couldn’t keep him at home any longer.”
Zimmerman said the family had enrolled Joshua in special education classes in the Las Vegas school system, but after he had a violent fight with his father and sister, his parents decided to send him to a private boarding school.
Sources identified that school as Vista del Mar in West Los Angeles. The school issued a statement saying that the law prohibits it from “releasing any information on the children and families it serves without their written consent.”
Joshua may have been trying to return to Las Vegas in the Mercedes when he was arrested Sunday morning. He remains in San Diego County Juvenile Hall, awaiting a hearing Wednesday. A law that took effect Jan. 1, 1995, lowered from 16 to 14 the age at which teenagers can be tried as adults.
Bill Grossman, 78, and his wife, 74, moved to this suburb north of San Diego in 1992 after he retired from the banking business in Los Angeles. George Jenkins, 50, and his wife, Aileen, 48, had moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles two years ago and were real estate brokers and rental property owners.
Their home in Las Vegas was for sale, and the family was considering moving back to Southern California to be closer to their son.
The Jenkinses often spent weekends with the Grossmans after picking their son up at school, where they also attended family counseling sessions.
Neighbors said Joshua had trouble coming to terms with being an adopted child.
“The boy used to say that Megan was the only person he really loved,” Zimmerman said. According to law enforcement sources, Joshua dispassionately described to detectives how he committed the murders and how he had planned to cut off his sister’s head.
Although the motive for the killings was not known, the teenager had argued with his mother and often expressed anger at being sent to boarding school.
“I remember at Halloween, his mother had tears in her eyes and said that he was just too violent, too volatile for them to handle,” Zimmerman said. “She couldn’t understand what had happened to a boy who had been so charming when he was younger.”