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Prosecutors and defense attorneys say treatment options were a vital part of a plea agreement the boy signed Thursday. He had faced two counts of premeditated murder in the deaths of his father and his father's roommate. He pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the death of 39-year-old Timothy Romans, and the murder charge stemming from the death of his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, was dropped.
"I think this experience probably can change an individual, and I'm hoping this doesn't tremendously change him," said defense attorney Benjamin Brewer. "To be as normal a kid as possible, it would be something we'd like to strive for."
Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting said prosecutors had two options in the case: proceed and risk that the boy be found incompetent and receive no treatment or have him enter a plea agreement.
"We discussed that and felt better that he be under the state's care, that he get treatment," he said.
The boy has not been sentenced. Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael Roca will decide whether the boy will serve time in a county juvenile facility, be institutionalized for treatment or live with relatives.
The boy's plea spares the rural community of about 4,000 from what would have been an emotional trial and prevents the boy from serving time in the state juvenile corrections system or being tried as an adult.
He was polite in court and was never asked to explain any motive for the killings.
Defense attorney Ron Wood said the plea deal was a compromise that wouldn't please everyone.
"I don't know it was the best thing. That remains to be seen," he said. "This resolution of the case causes more potential for working out in (the boy's) favor."
The boy's mother cried throughout the hearing and, through her lawyer, objected to the plea deal. But Superior Court Judge Michael Roca accepted it.
In court Thursday, the boy was more talkative and relaxed than in previous hearings, laughing and chatting with his lawyer and mother.
But his demeanor became more serious as the hearing got under way. The judge questioned him for nearly half an hour, about whether he understood his rights, the terms of the plea agreement and the consequences.
The boy answered respectfully and politely, using "yes, sir" or "no, sir" in most cases.
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