Psychologists Split on Fate of Boy Who Killed Neo-Nazi Father in Riverside

By Patrick Healy
|  Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013  |  Updated 7:34 AM PDT
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Two psychologists testified Tuesday that the 13-year-old boy, who was 10 when he shot his father, likely suffers from ADHD and has learning disorders. The boy’s attorneys argue he can only get the help he needs in a private institution. Patrick Healy reports from Riverside for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013.

Patrick Healy

Two psychologists testified Tuesday that the 13-year-old boy, who was 10 when he shot his father, likely suffers from ADHD and has learning disorders. The boy’s attorneys argue he can only get the help he needs in a private institution. Patrick Healy reports from Riverside for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013.

Psychologists who testified in Riverside Juvenile Court on Tuesday were split on whether a boy who murdered his neo-Nazi father should serve his sentence in a juvenile correctional center.

The doctors agreed that the boy needed to be rehabilitated in a structured environment. However, one argued that the child's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder would cause problems in a prison-like youth correctional setting.

The boy, now 13, was convicted of fatally shooting his father, Jeff Hall, in May 2011. He was 10 at the time.

NBC4 is not releasing the child's name.

In January, a jury found him responsible for the second-degree murder of his father after a trial that included testimony that the boy's mother abused drugs while she was pregnant and his father was abusive and violent.

Prosecutors in the trial also noted that the boy had a history of violence that dated back to kindergarten, when he stabbed a teacher with a pencil, and that he told his younger sister two days before the shooting about plans to kill his father.

The boy is expected to remain incarcerated in a public or private facility until he is 23. The courts must now decide where he will serve out that sentence.

Attorneys for the boy contend he suffers from disabilities that preclude him from being committed to a California Department of Juvenile Justice facility. They argue he should instead be placed in a private facility.

The boy has been held primarily at Riverside Juvenile Hall. He was recently transferred to the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, where he underwent assessments during the seven weeks he was there.

The boy would be returned there if he were committed to a Department of Juvenile Justice facility.

On Tuesday, Krys Hunter of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Dr. Jose Fuentes, who was retained by the Riverside County Office of Education, were called to testify.

The boy needs to be in a "structured environment," both psychologists told the court. Hunter testified she thought the state-run facility would be be beneficial.

"He fits in nicely," Hunter said in response to questioning from Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio. However, Fuentes said the boy's hyperactivity could lead to problems in a youth correctional facility.

Also testifying Wednesday was Jacqueline Cloud, principal of the Joanna Boss High School located on the grounds of the O.H. Close Facility, which the boy attended during his stay.

"'I like it here. I'm learning a lot,'" Cloud quoted the boy as telling her.

The boy is currently at an 8th grade level, which is middle school. Under questioning by the boy's education attorney, Punam Grewal, Cloud acknowledged the Close Facility does not have a separate middle school.

The boy would attend the high school, but be taught an 8th grade curriculum.

"You can't just send a child to another school because a middle school does not exist," said Gloria Romero, a former college professor, later state senator, who sees this case as a emblematic of shortcomings in DJJ's ability to provide for special education needs.

The boy's paternal grandmother, Joann Becker, said she holds out hope that her grandson can be helped and prepared to lead a productive life when he is returned to society as an adult.

"He's a great kid. But he does have some issues. And they have to addressed, so he doesn't hurt anybody else--or himself," Becker said.

Testimony was expected to conclude Wednesday. Judge Jean Pfeiffer Leonard has indicated she expects then to make a ruling within 24 hours.

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