By JEANNE STARMACK
NEW CASTLE, Pa.
Though Jordan Brown was found guilty in the shotgun murder of his father’s pregnant fiancee, the victim’s father says there really won’t be closure.
“We’re not gonna sit back and enjoy the victory,” said Jack Houk shortly after Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge John Hodge announced his decision Friday. “There’s no joy for us. He killed our daughter and the baby.”
A few family members and Jordan were present in the courtroom at 2 p.m. to await the decision, which was closed to the public because it was a juvenile proceeding. Jordan, 14, was adjudicated delinquent, which means guilty in juvenile court, for killing Kenzie Houk, 26, the morning of Feb. 20, 2009, as she lay in bed in a farmhouse the family was renting near Wampum, Pa.
Police said Jordan, 11 at the time, got his 20-gauge youth-model shotgun, loaded it, went into Houk’s room and shot her at close range in the back of the head.
Afterward, he got on the school bus with Houk’s 7-year-old daughter, Janessa. Her 4-year-old daughter, Adalynn, found her mother’s body and went for help to tree-trimmers working in the yard.
Houk’s unborn baby, a boy who was due in two weeks, died from lack of oxygen.
Police found the shotgun in Jordan’s room.
Jordan has been in a juvenile detention center in Erie, Pa., for three years while his lawyers fought for a transfer of his case from adult to juvenile court.
Now, he will be sent to a treatment program. The prosecutor in the case, Assistant Attorney General Anthony Krastek Jr., said the boy is supposed to be sentenced within 20 days, though the court could be granted an extension.
Jordan’s father, Chris Brown, did not speak to the media after the verdict. After closing arguments Thursday, he and defense attorney Dennis Elisco said they believed the evidence was circumstantial and that the state had not proved its case.
Brown said Thursday there was no motive for Jordan to shoot Houk because he loved her. He called his son “a good kid.”
Krastek said Friday, however, that there were indications of a motive.
“We don’t have to prove motive,” Krastek said. “But there was evidence of ill-feeling, that there was better treatment of the stepsisters, and he was being moved out of his room to make room for the new baby.”
He also elaborated on other evidence.
There were no footprints in freshly fallen snow, he said, to indicate anyone else could have been at the house. The children and Kenzie were there alone; Chris Brown was at work.
“There was a half-hour window of opportunity for this killing,” Krastek said. “They lived out in the boondocks. Very few people knew they lived there.”
Someone would have had to know where the gun was, where the ammunition was, gotten them without waking Houk, killed her, then left without leaving any footprints or tire tracks, he said.
He also said there was gunshot residue on the boy’s shirt and pants.
Elisco could not be reached Friday. Jordan’s other defense attorney, Stephen Colafella, said the defense is disappointed in the verdict.
“But we respect it,” he said. “We’re moving on, and at the end of the day, it’s what’s best for Jordan.”
He said that the Erie detention center was mainly a holding center that did not offer much in the way of programs.
Colafella said Jordan likely will go to a center that can meet his needs for treatment and education.
Jordan must be released on his 21st birthday, he said, but could be released before then.
His lawyers will receive reports on his progress every six months.
Colafella said he does not know how Jordan reacted to the verdict, because he was taken quickly from the courthouse for security reasons and they did not have a chance to talk to him.
Houk said he would have liked the chance to ask Jordan “why.”
“I’d like to look him right in the face and say, ‘Why did you do that,’” he said, his voice breaking.