RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A 10-year-old California boy on trial for murder in the death of his neo-Nazi father told detectives in a videotaped interview aired in court Wednesday that he killed his dad.
The video was played by prosecutors in the case against the boy, now 12, who is accused of shooting Jeff Hall, a regional leader in the National Socialist Movement.
In addition, the boy's younger sister testified that her brother planned for four days to kill their father, according to The Press-Enterprise of Riverside. (http://bit.ly/W7PVSC ).
Prosecutors allege the boy snuck a gun from his parents' bedroom closet and shot Hall once behind the left ear as he slept on a couch.
The Associated Press is not identifying the children because they are juveniles. The boy is being tried in juvenile court, and if a judge decides the boy killed his father, he could be held in state custody until he is 23.
As the taped interview was played, the boy fidgeted in his chair and clanked his ankle chains together while resting his head on the table. The court had to stop the video briefly because the boy was nodding off, the newspaper reported.
On the tape, the boy sat holding his stepmother's hand and gave rambling answers to detectives.
In one exchange, Riverside police Detective Roberta Hopewell asked the boy for an example of something that might be wrong.
"I shot my dad," the boy said, according to the newspaper.
Prosecutor Michael Soccio said earlier in the trial that Hall's neo-Nazi beliefs had nothing to do with the murder.
The boy killed his father because he suspected Hall was going to leave his stepmother and he didn't want the family to split up, Soccio said. He also told the judge hearing the case that the child was angry because Hall beat him, his siblings and his stepmother, who had raised the boy since he was a toddler.
The boy had been expelled from multiple schools for violent behavior, including stabbing a teacher with a pencil on his first day of kindergarten and later trying to strangle a teacher with a telephone cord, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Matthew Hardy said his client grew up in an abusive and violent environment because of his father's neo-Nazi beliefs and was "conditioned" to kill.
Hall taught his son to shoot guns, and took him to neo-Nazi rallies and once to the Mexican border to "make sure he knew what to do to protect this place from the Mexicans," Hardy said.
The defense also suggested that the boy's stepmother, Krista McCary, might have goaded him into killing Hall because she was angry about an affair her husband was having.
Hall sent her three profanity-laced text messages hours before he was killed telling her he wanted a divorce, and the couple argued in the kitchen, McCary testified.
She told the court Tuesday that she was not angry at her husband. She initially told police she had killed Hall, but testified that she made the false confession to protect her stepson.
McCary has pleaded guilty to one felony count of child endangerment and criminal storage of a firearm, said John Hall, a Riverside County district attorney spokesman who is not relation to the victim.
Kathleen M. Heide, a University of South Florida professor and author of "Why Kids Kill Parents," told the AP that children 10 and under rarely kill their parents. Only 16 such cases were documented between 1996 and 2007, she said.