Indiana judge weighs adult court for teen in girl’s killing

A judge is weighing whether a 15-year-old boy should be tried as an adult on charges alleging that he molested and fatally strangled a 6-year-old northern Indiana girl last year.

St. Joseph County Magistrate Graham Polando heard testimony Wednesday on whether the boy should be waived from probate to superior court, where he would be tried as an adult and receive a harsher sentence if convicted.

He must also decide whether the teen should await trial while housed in jail, the county’s juvenile detention center or another facility.

A ruling by Polando is not expected for at least several days, the South Bend Tribune reported.

The boy was previously found psychologically competent to stand trial in Grace Ross’ March 2021 killing in a wooded area near New Carlisle, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Chicago.

According to court documents, the boy, then 14, told police a “shadowy man” controlled him and made him strangle Ross after she followed him into the woods from the nearby apartment complex where she lived.

Prosecutors on Wednesday sought to show that the juvenile justice system is not suited to address the severity of the boy’s alleged crimes and the potential threat he poses to public safety, while the superior court would have a broader range of sentencing options.

The boy’s defense offered testimony that he had no history of violence and would face harm if placed in jail alongside adults.

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