An appeals court has overturned the guilty verdict against a 15-year-old western Pennsylvania boy accused of killing his father’s pregnant fiancee and her unborn child when the boy was 11.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court said Wednesday that Jordan Brown’s conviction was “plainly contrary to the evidence” and that the case should go back to Lawrence County juvenile court.
The boy’s lawyer, Stephen Colafella, said the defense team was “pleased but not shocked” with the decision. Colafella said they always felt that the state had insufficient evidence against Brown and that other people may have been involved in the shooting.
Colafella said he’s not sure whether the defense will ask for Brown’s release, pending a new trial.
The boy has been in juvenile detention since a judge ruled in April 2012 that Brown was delinquent — the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict — in the 2009 deaths of Kenzie Houk, 26, and her unborn son.
Houk was shot in the back of the head with Brown’s 20-gauge youth-model shotgun. The shooting occurred after the boy’s father left for work. Brown and Houk’s two daughters, age 7 and 4, also were in the house.
The case grabbed headlines as much due to the chilling nature of the crimes as the ill-fitting Pennsylvania laws governing juvenile homicide suspects, which prompted two Superior Court appeals.
The first resulted in the case being moved to juvenile court; the second was an unsuccessful attempt by three western Pennsylvania newspapers to open the trial to the public even though Lawrence County Judge John Hodge had the discretion to close the case because Brown was under 12 when the killings occurred.