Motion to dismiss juvenile's homicide charges in town of Sharon shooting denied
ELKHORN—A family member of the victim in a July town of Sharon shooting sat in court dabbing eyes, shaking and nodding in agreement Tuesday with a Walworth County judge's decision to not dismiss the homicide allegation against a family friend.
The accused was charged Aug. 19 in juvenile court with homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon after fatally shooting a friend in the head, according to a juvenile delinquency petition.
The shooting was reported at 12:33 p.m. July 9. Walworth County sheriff's deputies and Sharon police responded to a 911 call of a person shot in a wooded area behind a home at N1602 County K in the town of Sharon.
Defense attorney Frank Lettenberger argued the homicide allegation against his client should be dismissed because the juvenile petition doesn't show the juvenile “handled a weapon in a criminally negligent manner."
A court order bars The Gazette from reporting details about the July shooting and the juvenile charged in the event.
An order drafted by Walworth County Court Commissioner Zeke Wiedenfeld bans any media representative who attends the suspect's appearances in juvenile court Tuesday from reporting the gender, age or hometown of the child suspected in the shooting, the child who was killed, and family members or friends. It mandates that the suspect be referred to only as “a person under the age of 17” and the victim only as “a child victim under the age of 18.”
The order also bars the media from “supplementing disclosures about court proceedings with outside information or images from other sources or by referencing or linking disclosures about court proceedings to previous publications.”
Tuesday was the juvenile's second appearance in court with two family members and Lettenberger.
Lettenberger argued there was no way for the juvenile to know “the victim was going to jump in front” of the gun. He said the juvenile suspect “took evasive action” by screaming the victim's name and trying to turn the gun away in time.
“Nobody wanted this result,” Lettenberger said. “Everybody here would have prevented this result if they could have.”
Assistant District Attorney Cody Horlacher argued the juvenile petition meets the necessary burden of proof to find the juvenile probably committed a felony.
The argument that the juvenile did not know handling a gun could end in great bodily harm or death isn't valid, Horlacher said.
"Even if this was (the accused's) first time with a handgun, you'd think common sense tells you that an individual is going to know this is dangerous, this is not a toy," Horlacher said. "You don't point a gun down range when you have somebody in front of you or that close."
The juvenile sat up straight facing Judge James Carlson for the majority of the hearing, occasionally looking toward Lettenberger, Horlacher or the ground when the events of the July afternoon were recounted.
Carlson denied the motion to dismissed after a 50-minute hearing.
The juvenile will appear in court next at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 10, at the Walworth County Judicial Center.