It is just after midnight on August 1 in Detroit. Trisha Babcock and a friend sit in a car on West Outer Drive. A figure approaches the vehicle. A gun appears. A shot is fired. Babcock is mortally wounded. She dies a short time later.
For homicide detectives, the circumstances are sadly familiar. Except for one detail: the murder suspect is 12-years-old.
He is just a child, but authorities in Michigan believe the boy was old enough to kill. And if convicted of the crime, he could face a possible lifetime inside an adult prison. “As you can imagine, it’s a very sensitive case because of the nature of it,” Deputy Chief John Roach of the Detroit Police Department told CNN.
The situation is both sensitive and highly controversial. The boy is currently being held at a juvenile center in Wayne County. Authorities say they are awaiting a preliminary examination before releasing his name.
The office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced the suspect will be tried as a minor. However, under Michigan law, if he is found guilty, he can be designated as an adult for sentencing.
“The judge would have three options at the time of sentencing,” Maria Miller, the spokeswoman for Worthy said to CNN in a phone interview. “To sentence him as a juvenile, sentence him as an adult, or a blended sentence.” A blended sentence gives the judge discretion of sending a juvenile offender to prison when he or she reaches the age of 19.
The suspect is charged with felony murder, armed robbery, felony firearms, and a curfew violation, according to Roach, who also provided a detailed description of the shooting:
“The 12-year-old approached the vehicle and pointed his gun at Babcock. After a brief struggle, he fired one shot, striking her in the chest. She was taken to Sinai-Grace hospital where she died a short time later.”
Witnesses told police the boy was attempting to rob Babcock, who ironically was 24-years-old, twice his age.
Roach said forensic evidence linked the boy to the homicide, who, accompanied by his father, turned himself in on August 14.
He is young, but he may appear older than he looks.
“He is 6′2″, Maria Miller said, “he’s a big kid for his age, a big kid.”
Roach, who said the suspect turns 13-years-old next month, can not recall a similar case to this one ever in Wayne County. He called it an “aberration.”
However, he added “the reality is that we do have a lot of juvenile shooting suspects which is a very serious issue. It’s at the center of what our new chief is trying to address.”
The judge assigned to the case was unavailable for comment. Attempts to determine if a defense attorney has been retained or appointed have been unsuccessful.
The child’s next court appearance will be August 26.
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