Judge to decide if teen accused of killing six-year-old Grace Ross will be tried as an adult

NOW: Judge to decide if teen accused of killing six-year-old Grace Ross will be tried as an adult

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- A judge now set to make the final decision if the 15-year-old boy charged in the murder of six-year-old Grace Ross will be tried as an adult.

The little girl's heartbroken family telling ABC57 news they want him sent to adult court and adult prison if convicted.

A decision still lingers after the continued waiver hearing concluded Thursday afternoon with hours long testimony from doctors and the defendant's mother in a closed session.

Now it’s a waiting game with the judge set to decide if the defendant should be bumped up.

“This is a very serious case with a horrific outcome already, the nature of the offense is just awful,” said Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Fronk.

The prosecution has pushed to have the 15-year-old defendant waived up to adult court because of the nature of his crimes, that include charges of felony murder and molestation of six-year-old Grace Ross in New Carlisle.

At one point investigators even said, the teen strangled the little girl because a shadowy figure told him to do it.

“The victim being such a young child, the sexual component of the allegations, the means by which death occurred of all that exacerbates the severity, if there was such a thing of garden variety murder, this isn’t it,” added Fronk.

The defense however argued the St. Joseph County Jail doesn’t have resources to support juveniles and that he should remain at the juvenile justice center.

The defense also cited concerns about the 15-year-old’s existing mental health issues, something St. Joseph County public defender Mark James said doctors spoke to Thursday and could play a role in the judge’s decision.

“Mental health professionals in our case talked about first the best interest of our client and then have waiving the child to adult court would not be in the interest of the safety and welfare of the community, that was the basis of their testimony,” he explained.

Attorneys said the judge now is left to consider all factors, with a decision expected to be difficult on both sides of the aisle.

“Waivers are always difficult because our clients are faced with a very serious offense,” added James. “This is tough for us as defenders, tough for the kid because we’ve never experience something like this before so, it’s challenges for everybody. Not easy for the prosecutor either, these are things that you don’t want to see happen.”

This case in still in predisposition, meaning guilt has still not been established yet.

Now under the law the judge does have up to three months to decide whether the juvenile will be waived up, but the officials said they expect him to hopefully get out the order by next week.

If the juvenile is waived up, the court will also have to decide if the defendant will remain at the juvenile detention center or if he will go to St. Joseph County Jail until superior (adult) court takes over. 

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