Family questions privileges of juvenile accused in murder
By MARY GRZEBIENIAK
NEW CASTLE, Pa.
A grieving family wants to know why their daughter’s accused killer is being housed in a facility where he has privileges he would not have if housed in the Lawrence County Jail.
Jack and Debbie Houk and several friends and family members addressed Lawrence County commissioners at their meeting this week, asking if commissioners could determine why 12-year-old Jordan Brown is not in the Lawrence County Jail and instead is being housed at the Edmond L. Thomas Juvenile Center in Erie at a cost of $239.34 per day. Jordan has been held there since March 1, 2009.
Brown is accused in the murder of the Houks’ daughter, Kenzie, 26, who was the girlfriend of Jordan’s father, Chris Brown. Houk, who was pregnant, was shot in the head as she lay in bed Feb. 20, 2009, at the Brown home. Jordan has been charged with two counts of homicide in the deaths.
County Controller Dave Gettings said after the meeting that Children and Youth Services is paying part of the cost of housing Jordan, and the county is paying the remainder. He said that in such a case, CYS usually pays 60 percent, but he said the breakdown will not be determined until an appeal is decided on whether Jordan will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.
Gettings, who also is prison board president, said he could not break down the cost of housing Jordan if he were to be placed in the county jail but pointed out the county charges the state $50 a day to house an inmate here.
Debbie Houk stated that Brown is housed in Erie among less-violent juvenile offenders “who wrote bad checks or stole a car.” She added that he gets privileges that would not be given in jail, such as playing checkers with staff members and being allowed to have face-to-face visits from his father six days per week.
“Why are we as taxpayers paying for this?” she asked.
Jack Houk said there are juveniles as young as 13 and 15 in the county jail here and noted that Jordan is almost 13. He and the others said they believe that since Judge Dominick Motto ruled Jordan is to be tried as an adult, he should be in an adult facility.
The decision to try Jordan as an adult is being appealed by his attorneys, Dennis Elisco and David Acker, who are trying to move the case to juvenile court.
Commissioner Steve Craig noted that the judiciary is independent and said: “We can’t issue any edict about operation of the court system. We only fund it.” Commissioners said that they will discuss the matter with their solicitor, Atty. Thomas Leslie, but could not promise action.