Andrew Dys

January 4, 2014

Authorities: York boy, 11, is the youngest locally ever charged with attempted murder

Police allege the 11-year-old stabbed a 15-year-old right before Christmas.

Although police and prosecutors have said almost nothing about what may happen Tuesday when an 11-year-old York boy appears in court, law enforcement officials say he may be the youngest person locally or in South Carolina ever accused of attempted murder.

The child, accused of stabbing a 15-year-old boy, has been held in juvenile detention since his arrest Dec. 23. The hearing is in Family Court: Because of his age, he faces the criminal charge in that court, not in criminal court where adults appear. The maximum sentence for anyone convicted in family court is imprisonment until age 21.

Whitney Payne, assistant solicitor for juvenile cases, declined to discuss details of the case or details about the defendant, citing the suspect’s age. However, Payne said she cannot recall such a young defendant in York County facing such serious charges. “We don’t see this in York County for someone so young,” Payne said.

Lt. Rich Caddell, supervisor for detectives at the York Police Department, declined to comment on specifics of the case because of the suspect’s age. Yet Caddell also said that he does not recall another case where a child as young as 11 was charged with trying to kill someone else.

The 11-year-old had been fighting with the 15-year-old before the stabbing. The suspect allegedly went back, found the victim, and stabbed him in the back with a steak knife. The victim spent a week in the hospital.

A detailed police report obtained by The Herald sheds new details into the crime. Neither the name of the defendant nor the victim have been released by authorities because of their ages. However, the police report states that officers knew both the suspect and victim from previous incidents involving police.

A juvenile witness told police that the suspect “ran across the street” to the victim. It sounded like the suspect “hit” the victim in the back, then ran away. Only when the victim fell to the ground did a group of people see the knife sticking out of his back, the police report shows.

Another police officer spoke to a second juvenile witness who said the suspect and victim had a previous fight. The witness said the suspect came back and stabbed the victim.

The victim identified the 11-year-old as his attacker, police said, and when asked why, he said, “We were fighting,” according to York Police Department reports. The victim was found bleeding on a sidewalk complaining of pain and not being able to feel his legs. He repeatedly asked officers to “take the knife out of his back.”

The victim was rushed to a hospital for surgery, where the knife was removed. Family members later told The Herald no vital organs were damaged.

Tuesday’s hearing will determine if prosecutors can continue to keep the 11-year-old in custody as the case moves forward. Typically, judges ask prosecutors, police and juvenile justice officials during hearings about the child’s past or pending problems with the law.

An adult witness told police Dec. 23 that a group of boys, including the suspect and victim, had been at a house on Singletary Lane in York. The 15-year-old hit the 11-year-old in the face with a hat. When he would not stop, a fight started.

The suspect’s mother, Joanne Pressley, told The Herald that her son and the victim had problems on previous days and earlier that day. Pressley told police after the incident that her son knew the victim and acted in self-defense after being beaten up. The police report from the incident shows the 11-year-old did get medical treatment for a swollen area on his forehead, as well as cuts and scrapes.

But officers told Pressley, the suspect’s mother, that self-defense “doesn’t give you the right to go and find somebody.”

Stacey Coleman, assistant public defender representing the 11-year-old, said the child was undergoing a medical evaluation while in custody but declined to comment on the pending case except to say that her office would conduct its own investigation. It is unclear if Coleman will ask the judge Tuesday for the 11-year-old to be released while the case is pending.

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