The youngest person ever charged with attempted murder in York County, S.C., – and possibly in the state – admitted Tuesday that he stashed a steak knife in the woods before stabbing another child in the back.
It is unclear how much time the 12-year-old York boy – who was 11 in December when he was charged with attempted murder – will spend in a juvenile prison. Juveniles can be jailed for violent crimes until they turn 21.
The boy – who police say has been in trouble since he was 5 – pleaded guilty in Family Court Tuesday after prosecutors reduced the charge to assault of a high and aggravated nature.
Family Court Judge Jerry Vinson of Florence, S.C., ordered that the boy be evaluated before he sentences him. A sentencing hearing will be held within 45 days.
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The boy’s attorney, assistant public defender Stacey Coleman, said the boy had been hit in the head and face during a fight with a 15-year-old boy, but he left the scene and returned to stab the other boy – so he could not claim self-defense.
The boy did not intend to kill the victim, Coleman said, and “did not intend to seriously hurt the victim.”
The victim, now 16, spent a week in the hospital after life-saving surgery. Police found him lying on a York sidewalk with the knife still in his back.
The boy’s plea to assault of a high and aggravated nature is “only one step” down from attempted murder, said Whitney Payne, the assistant solicitor who handles juvenile cases. It is still is a conviction of a violent crime, she said.
The Observer is not naming either youth because of their ages. The victim was not in court Tuesday.
The stabbing happened after the boys had been involved in a scuffle earlier in the day on Dec. 23, said Lt. Rich Caddell of the York Police Department. The 11-year-old’s claims that he had been bullied by the victim, which the boy had used as a reason for the stabbing, were found to be false.
Caddell called the fight a common, everyday occurrence between the children, who hung around together.
“His defense was, basically, that he had been picked on,” Caddell testified.
The police investigation showed that after the fight, the 11-year-old left to get the knife. Police believed he had gone home – just a few hundred yards from where the fight and stabbing happened – to get the knife, but the child testified Tuesday that he had stashed the knife in the woods.
It was clear that the boy “was not properly supervised” at the time of the crime, Coleman said, and the child has an emotional disability and is in special education classes in York.
Police reports show the child had been removed from school several times for disciplinary reasons. His mother’s boyfriend was killed by police in York in 2011 after the man shot at several people, including officers, Coleman said, and the child had been the victim of abuse when he was younger.
Testimony at a January court hearing showed the boy had been ordered by a judge in another Family Court case to undergo mental health treatment, but he did not complete it. He also had been convicted of stealing and smashing a cellphone at age 10.
“He has been through several traumatic experiences,” Coleman said.
Several of the child’s relatives were in court but did not testify. They waved to the boy as he was led in handcuffs back to a juvenile jail.