Boy, 12, goes on trial in America for fatally shooting his neo-Nazi father
Nearly two years after a California neo-Nazi leader was shot at near point-blank range while sleeping on his sofa, his son –who was ten at the time – went on trial yesterday for murder.
The victim, Jeff Hall, was an out-of-work plumber who as regional leader of the National Socialist Movement headed rallies at a synagogue and a migrant labour site.
In opening statements in juvenile court, Riverside County prosecutor Michael Soccio said the now-12-year-old boy wanted to kill his father because of a history of domestic violence.
Mr Soccio dismissed the notion that Mr Hall’s neo-Nazi beliefs contributed to the son’s penchant for violence, as the defence maintains. “You’ll learn that [the child] would have shot his father even if he’d been a member of the Peace and Freedom Party,” he said.
Mr Soccio said the boy told his younger sister the day before the May 2011 killing that he planned to shoot their father and she told him not to. The boy saw an opportunity on the evening of the killing when his father came home from a party but was locked out and had to get in the house by crawling through a window, the prosecutor said. Mr Hall fell asleep on the couch, and the boy got a gun and shot him, Mr Soccio said.
“He held the gun about a foot away and, as he explained, he took four fingers and put them into the trigger and pulled the trigger back and the gun discharged,” Mr Soccio said, showing images of a bloodied victim on the couch covered by a blanket.
Defence attorney Matthew Hardy countered in his opening that his client had grown up in an abusive and violent environment that led him to believe it was good and right to kill people who were a threat to oneself and the safety of one’s family.
The boy’s father taught him to shoot guns, took him to neo-Nazi rallies and once took him to the Mexican border to teach him how to protect his country from illegal immigrants, Mr Hardy said.
“If you were going to create a monster, if you were going to create a killer, what would you do?” he said. “You’d put him in a house where there’s domestic violence, child abuse, racism.”
Mr Hardy also alleged that the boy’s stepmother, Krista McCrary, who is expected to testify, manipulated the boy into killing Mr Hall because he was going to leave her for another woman. Mr Hall sent text messages that night telling her he would divorce her and had left a party with another woman, Mr Hardy said.
Ms McCrary sat in on the child’s interviews with police and psychiatrists after the shooting, he said, and she lied to investigators.
The prosecutor said previously that the boy’s history included being expelled from school for violence at the age of five, long before Mr Hall became a neo-Nazi. The school violence included choking a teacher with a telephone cable. The defendant have not been identified by name because of his age.
Mr Hall, 32, who said he believed in a separate white state, ran for a seat on the local water board in 2010 in a move that disturbed many residents in the recession-battered suburbs south-east of Los Angeles. The day before his death, he held a meeting of the neo-Nazi group at his home.
Last year, the boy – the oldest of Mr Hall’s five children – told investigators he shot his father before returning upstairs and hiding the gun under his bed, according to court documents. He told authorities he thought his father was going to leave his stepmother, and he didn’t want the family to split up.
Ms McCrary told authorities that Mr Hall had hit, kicked and yelled at his son for being too loud or getting in the way. Mr Hall and the boy’s biological mother had previously fought through a divorce and custody dispute in which each had accused the other of child abuse.
If the judge finds the boy murdered Mr Hall, he could be held in state custody until he is 23, said Bill Sessa, of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The state currently houses fewer than 900 juveniles.
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