Prosecutors offer plea agreement to St. Johns boy

ST. JOHNS, AZ - A St. Johns boy sentenced to residential treatment for killing his father's friend \ould avoid a majority of alleged probation violations , including that he issued death threats and assaulted staff members.

Prosecutors have offered the 12-year-old boy an agreement in which he would plead guilty to three charges and 12 others would be dropped, Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting said Wednesday.

Defense attorney Ron Wood said he would discuss the offer with his client. A Thursday court hearing in St. Johns has been postponed until June 15.

The boy was 8 when he was charged with killing his father and his father's friend in a case that shocked the country, mainly because of the boy's age. He eventually pleaded guilty to one count of negligent homicide in the death of Tim Romans. He apologized in court for killing his dad, Vincent Romero, but was not held criminally responsible as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Prosecutors recently accused the boy of threatening to kill staff members and peers, damaging property, escaping from the residential treatment center where he's been since 2010 and assaulting people there. Under the proposed agreement, the boy would plead guilty to leaving the treatment center in February without permission, pushing a staff member and cursing at her, and smashing a wall clock on the sidewalk.

"Once he pleads to those three categories, everything else is basically a repeat," Whiting said.

Prosecutors originally brought 25 charges against the boy in late March but dropped 10 of those involving his peers before offering a plea agreement. One of the counts accused the boy of telling classmates "You know what is cool? When you shoot somebody and their body shakes."

If the boy pleads to or is found guilty of any of the charges, he would be sentenced in Apache County Superior Court in St. Johns. But his situation might not change much.

Whiting said his office would push for placement in a secured facility, which could mean another residential treatment center or the state juvenile corrections department. Wood said the boy doesn't need to be in juvenile lockup at age 12 and instead needs to be placed at another treatment facility that would serve him better.

"All of these issues would have been addressed by competent treatment staff and monitoring," Wood wrote in an email. "We were denied treatment updates by probation for two years. And now is (the boy's) fault? Nice try."

The Associated Press has not identified the boy because of his age.

The county probation department said its director was unavailable for comment Wednesday. The department filed a petition to revoke the boy's probation ahead of the county attorney's office, suggesting that the boy be moved to another facility.

Wood said the probation department's move was premature because the initial plea agreement stated that any change in the boy's treatment would be recommended by doctors who evaluated him. An evaluation was ordered in December but was not filed with the court until earlier this month, and it is sealed.

Whiting said at least one doctor recommended a similar treatment facility that also is in Maricopa County or one specifically for boys.

The boy was set to undergo psychological and mental evaluations at ages 12, 15 and 17. He is on intensive probation until he turns 18.