Friday, January 15, 2010

Rural Arizona boy sentenced to mental treatment facility

Ten-year-old Christian Romero was sentenced yesterday, some 14 months after he allegedly killed his father and another man in their St. Johns, Arizona, home. The sentencing comes about a year after the boy pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of the other man, a boarder in the Romero home; as part of that plea, charges for the father's death were dropped. Read earlier posts about the matter here and here.

In the past few months, the Apache County, Arizona judge who was to decide Romero's sentence, Michael Roca, was removed from the matter after he indicated that he would not comply with the plea agreement. Roca wanted to send the boy to a state facility, but Arizona juvenile justice authorities protested that they had no facility appropriate for a boy Romero's age. As a consequence of Roca's intent, presiding Judge Stauffer of neighboring Greenlee County was brought in to make the sentencing decision. She sentenced the boy, who was only 8 years old when the crimes were committed, to a mental treatment facility where he will live until he is 18. He will undergo periodic psychological counseling.

The removal of the Apache County juvenile court judge Roca from the case was based in part on a phenomena associated with small-town lack of anonymity. Roca referred to St. Johns as "poison" for young Romero, but in doing so he was apparently influenced by off-the-record communications from St. Johns' residents, who objected to having Christian Romero, who was living in St. Johns with his mother and his paternal grandmother, in school with their children. Read more here about how money--or the lack thereof in Apache County--also appeared to influence Roca's plans for Romero.

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