Two Washington fifth-grade boys were in court this week facing murder conspiracy charges after a fourth-grader on their bus saw them playing with a knife on the way to school. A search revealed these children also had a gun and ammunition, and were planning to rape and kill a female classmate and possibly murder other students as well.
The Fort Colville Elementary School boys, aged 10 and 11, were arrested in early February and a judge ruled on Friday that the case will go to trial. Despite Washington state law stating that children between 8 and 12 do not have the capacity to commit crimes, both a defense psychiatrist and a state psychologist said the boys are a danger to the community.
"Both explained to me that they had been planning this event about two weeks before that date and on the date we made contact with them and interviewed these students, it was going to happen that day," said Officer Scott Arms of the Colville Police Department.
Court documents stated that the boys did confess to plotting to murder at least one of their classmates, including making a "grown-up" plan to acquire a gun. According to a teacher's aide, the gun was stolen from the bedroom of one of the boy's brothers, and the brother in turn stole it from their grandfather.
It was discovered in court that one of the boys had already been suspended from school for bringing liquor on campus and stealing musical instruments. While the aim of juvenile cases is usually to help young people recognize their faults and correct them, the police were surprised at how dangerous these boys truly are.
During investigation to test the boys' mental capacity to commit a crime, a police officer asked one boy if he knew that murder was wrong and unlawful.
"Yes," the boy replied, "I wanted her dead."
In addition, a psychologist testified that one of the boys had told him that he wanted to rape the girl classmate in question, and explained that rape was having sex with someone when they didn't want to. The boy added that murder was "the baddest crime that I know of."
The school disciplinarian said that when initially confronted, neither boy was bothered by their decision to commit such horrible crimes. This aided the prosecution in beginning to prove that they knew exactly what they were doing: evidence included the nature of the crime, the child's age and maturity, whether the suspects showed a desire for secrecy, whether they told a victim not to tell, any similar prior conduct, if that conduct brought any consequences, and whether the boys acknowledged their behavior was wrong, are all legitimate reasons for claiming the boys' mental state was appropriate for trial. All of these items were met.
On April 8, the boys will be in court again on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, witness tampering, and juvenile possession of a firearm. Both have plead not guilty, and will be kept in custody on a $100,000 bond.
While the defense will be expected to attempt to suppress evidence recovered on their arrest date, the prosecution's case is far too strong. This goes beyond schoolyard bullying and these children should be treated as the terrifying miscreants they are.