A chilling family portrait emerged Wednesday in the case of a 10-year-old Riverside boy charged with murdering his neo-Nazi father, including outings to practice target shooting, a house with guns and knives stashed in easily accessible places and, the boy told police, regular beatings by his father. And he knew exactly where to find the family's .357 magnum revolver.
The boy gave a harrowing account of how he carried out the early morning attack May 1 as his father, 32-year-old Jeffrey R. Hall, was dozing on the living room couch, detectives said in a court declaration filed in connection with charges against the boy's stepmother, Krista F. McCary.
The 10-year-old told police he grabbed a Rossi .357 magnum revolver from a closet and "went downstairs with the gun, pulled the hammer back, aimed the gun at his dad's ear while he was asleep and shot him," Riverside Police Det. Greg Rowe wrote in the declaration. The boy "went upstairs and hid the gun under his bed."
The court document, based on police station interviews of McCary and four of the family's five children, offered the first glimpse of a household terrorized by Hall's alleged out-of-control violence and rants. The boy was a target of that abuse "on a daily basis," McCary, 26, told police, adding that her husband "kicks, hits and yells" at him more than the other four children.
"He was tired of his dad hitting him and his mom…he thought his dad was cheating on his mom and thought he might have to choose which person he would live with," Rowe said, referring to McCary in the court declaration. "He knew his mom and dad had a gun, and he knew where they kept it."
These details came out on the same day that the boy appeared in Riverside County Juvenile Court for a detention hearing. Judge Charles J. Koosed approved a request by the boy's attorney, Public Defender Mathew Hardy, for a mental health evaluation. Hardy said he may pursue a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. The boy is expected to enter a plea at his next hearing, set for July 22.
McCary has been charged with five felony counts of child endangerment and four counts of criminal storage of a firearm. The four other children, ranging from 2 months to 9 years of age, have been taken into protective custody and placed with a relative, police said.
Police found an unloaded .22-caliber rifle in the garage of Hall's home, 10 feet away from an unlocked and stocked ammunition cabinet. They also found several sharp-edged weapons in the master bedroom.
The prosecutor in the case, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ambrosio E. Rodriguez, cautioned that the court declaration was a "very short summary" of the evidence leading to McCary's arrest.
"It in no way gives a full explanation of the evidence we have in the case involving the juvenile's actions and mental state during the murder," he said.
From the outside, the family's stucco home near UC Riverside blended in seamlessly with the rest of the well-kept suburban neighborhood, though neighbors complained about Hall's occasional neo-Nazi barbecues and gatherings. Inside, police found squalor: dirty clothes strewn across floors, bedrooms smelling of urine, filthy bathrooms and beer bottles littering the downstairs, under the swastika of a National Socialist Movement flag.
Numerous complaints had been made to Riverside County Child Protective Services, the declaration stated, but most of the allegations were determined to be unfounded and may have stemmed from Hall's bitter child custody dispute with his ex-wife, the mother of the 10-year-old boy.
Sylvia Deporto, assistant director of childrens' services, said state law prohibits her from discussing any abuse investigation involving the family. In general, however, she said it's difficult to prove allegations of abuse unless confirmed by family members, who are often fearful of retaliation, or there is physical evidence.
Riverside police said they had no reports of domestic violence at the home prior to the shooting.
Rodriguez said there was nothing to indicate that Hall's neo-Nazi activities led to the shooting.
"I don't think you can deny that Jeff Hall's involvement, his leadership in the Nazi movement, is going to be an issue in this case. Think of the hate, the vitriol," Rodriguez said. "I don't see how that doesn't become an issue in a case when we're talking about a 10-year-old boy and what happened in the house."
Hall was the director of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement in the Western United States and last year lost a bid for the local water board.
Paul Mones, a Portland, Ore., attorney who has handled numerous cases involving children accused of killing a parent, said the vast majority of patricide cases are committed against controlling fathers abusing multiple members of their families.
"Many people know the situation in the house, but adults don't typically speak out for kids," Mones said. "If there's anything to take away from these cases, it's that kids suffer silently, and kids are put in the impossible human situation of ending it violently."
Maureen Pacheco, assistant director of Loyola Law School's Center for Juvenile Law and Policy, said she was dismayed that the details of the alleged shooting and abuse were made public in a court declaration, even though releasing the account was "legal, without a doubt."
A decade ago, California voters also approved Proposition 21, which opened to the public juvenile court proceedings involving alleged violent felonies.
"It's important to remember that because this boy is so young, he can't be prosecuted as an adult," she said. "That means he eventually is going to come back into society."