Petition alleges St. Johns boy violated probation

FLAGSTAFF, AZ - A boy who fatally shot his father's friend has violated probation by threatening to kill people and by damaging property at a residential treatment center, a probation officer alleged in court documents.

A petition to revoke probation for the 12-year-old St. Johns boy was withdrawn last week at the request of prosecutors, but Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting said he plans to re-file it after coordinating with the judge on a hearing date.

"The allegations are very serious," Whiting said.

The boy was eight when he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his father and his father's friend in a case that shocked residents of the small town of St. Johns and the nation because of the boy's age.

FBI statistics have shown that instances of children younger than 11 committing homicides are rare.

The boy eventually pleaded to a reduced charge of negligent homicide in the death of Tim Romans, 39. The charge stemming from the death of his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, was dropped as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

The prosecution and defense pressed for treatment instead of time in a county juvenile facility, saying treatment would give the boy the best chance to have a normal life. A judge agreed and sentenced the boy in early 2010 to indefinite residential treatment and intensive probation until he's 18.

Juvenile probation officer Michael O'Brien wrote in court documents last week that the boy has violated the terms of probation numerous times this year.

O'Brien alleged the boy threatened to kill his therapist, cursed at staff members, damaged a microwave, punched out a plastic glass window and smashed a wall clock.

According to court documents obtained by ABC15, the boy threatened to kill his roommate saying, "I can't sleep in that room because I will kill him in his sleep" and on another day told staff members, "When I leave here I'm going to come back here and kill him."

He also left the Phoenix facility after a therapist told him he couldn't participate in a group session because of his behavior, O'Brien alleged.

O'Brien didn't immediately return a message left Monday by The Associated Press.

Whiting said a violation hearing would be set once the petition is re-filed. If a judge determines the allegations are true, Whiting said his office would ask for further treatment if recommended by mental health professionals or that the boy be sent to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Ron Wood, the boy's former attorney, suggested that the petition was more about the cost of treatment than the best interest of the boy. Apache County pays about $5,000 a month for the boy's treatment, a cost that is offset by the boy's Social Security benefits that the judge ordered be sent to the facility.

Wood said he doesn't see the boy as a lost cause and still believes treatment is the only avenue for rehabilitation.

"I always thought that he'd need to be in treatment until he was a bit older and a lot more mature," Wood said. "Apache County has grown weary much too soon."

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