Three juveniles charged in the fatal Kettering shooting of a Fairmont High School junior will remain in custody as the judge uses "a broad range of options" to detain them.
It's been decades since the Dayton area's most populated suburb has seen a homicide in which a teen is accused of killing another teen, according to police. Judge Anthony Capizzi's decision has received little resistance from defense attorneys and has been endorsed by Ronnie Bowers' relatives, who want the defendants tried as adults.
“I detained the three youths,” Capizzi told the Dayton Daily News days after the Sept. 4 shooting, “because one, it’s a heinous crime. (And) two, to protect the community as well as to protect these three young men from the community.”
He has cited Ohio guidelines giving juvenile judges a greater discretion in remanding three defendants charged – all Kettering residents - charged last month in the death of the 16-year-old Bowers.
A fourth suspect, 2016 Fairmont grad Miles Heizer, 18, was jailed the morning after the shooting. He was released pending further investigation, police have said.
Defendants in adult court are entitled to bond and juveniles are not, said Montgomery County Juvenile Court Administrator James Cole.
Juvenile defendants can be detained “to protect the child from immediate or threatened physical or emotional harm,” the rule states in part, “or to protect the person or property of others from immediate or threatened physical or emotional harm.”
The guideline is “not a long, complicated rule,” Cole said.
“But it pretty much sets out that the court does have wide discretion in regards to the safety of the community and safety to the individual who may be detained,” Cole said.
Capizzi re-enforced his intent last week, both in court and in an order filed shortly thereafter.
Two 16-year-olds and a 14-year-old are in custody, all facing felonious assault charges. One 16-year-old also faces a count of tampering with evidence. Those charges came hours before Bowers’ death Sept. 6, two days after police said he was shot in the back of the head after leaving AlterFest.
Court records show one 16-year-old and the 14-year-old indicate the second 16-year-old fired the shot that killed Bowers. Those same records state Heizer was "the driver of the suspect vehicle."
The coroner ruled the death a homicide. But new or additional charges have not been filed against the defendants. Those may come by Oct. 26, when the three juveniles are due back in court.
It is likely the defendants will stay in detention as long as the case remains in juvenile court, Cole said.
“Based upon the potential charges, I don’t see them being released” unless prosecutors seek – and are successful with – transferring cases to adult court, he said.
Attempts by this news organization to contact prosecutors for this issue were unsuccessful.
This is the first gun-related homicide in Kettering since 2007 and the first one of any type involving only a teen victim and a teen defendant in three decades or more, police said.
A check of records and conversations with veteran officers found no Kettering homicide involving only youth victims and defendants for years, said John Jung, that city’s police department’s public information officer.
“Based on what we have, there hasn’t been either - at least in the last 30 years - of a teen on teen or juvenile on juvenile” homicide, he said.
Police called Bowers an “innocent bystander” attempting to flee an ongoing dispute that flared up earlier that night at AlterFest and the victim’s mother has said her son did not know the suspects.
Only one of the three defense attorneys sought his client’s release. But Ben Swift said he is unsure if he will make the same request Oct. 26.
“It depends,” he said, “on what….the allegations are.”
Another defense attorney, Jay Carter, said if he were the judge he would detain the defendants because of the serious nature of the crime and “out of respect for the system, respect for the victim.”
Bowers’ mother, Jessica Combs, said shortly after her son’s death that she thinks the defendants should be tried as adults.
Another relative, Bowers’ aunt Shannon Denniston, stated in a letter given to this news organization, the defendants “are clearly a threat to the community.”
“We ask that these individuals are charged with a crime,” the letter stated, “that is equivalent to their actions.”
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