RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The public defender for a 10-year-old boy charged with murdering his neo-Nazi father in the family’s California home says he might pursue an insanity defense and is seeking records from social workers who have monitored the boy’s family.
Matt Hardy said he will also request a psychiatric evaluation before entering a plea for the boy after he was charged Wednesday with murder in the shooting death of Jeff Hall, a 32-year-old plumber who had carried a swastika flag and led rallies outside a local synagogue and day labor site.
Riverside County prosecutors declined to provide additional details surrounding the early Sunday shooting until the boy enters a plea but said the case is highly unusual because of the boy’s age.
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“To say it’s unheard of is not hyberbole in this case,” said Ambrosio E. Rodriguez, senior deputy district attorney. “This is extremely rare. It is almost unheard of — until today.”
The small, blonde-haired boy appeared in juvenile court in an orange detention shirt, khaki pants and handcuffs. A judge ordered that he remains in juvenile hall until a May 18 detention hearing.
After the hearing, the child requested a visit with his step-mother and grandmother
Hardy said he anticipates a “long haul” in the case and that he was waiting to examine files from county social workers who have monitored the boy’s family following allegations of abuse and neglect. Child Protective Services records show investigators were called to the home four times in 2003 and four times during prior years.
“We have to look at the things that are mental elements,” Hardy told The Associated Press late Wednesday. “Whether he pulled the trigger or not is not the end of the inquiry.”
Judge Charles J. Koosed on Wednesday ordered the boy to remain at juvenile hall.
The boy, whose name is not being published by the AP because he is a minor, is accused of shooting his father with a handgun in the family’s home. Hall was found on the couch and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, said police Lt. Ed Blevins.
Authorities believe the shooting was intentional but declined to comment on a motive — except to say they do not believe Hall’s neo-Nazi affiliation played a role.
There were no reports of a disturbance or argument before the shooting was reported to police at about 4 a.m. Sunday, Blevins said.
Relatives of the boy who attended the hearing declined comment on the case. His mother, Leticia Neal, said she is looking into hiring a private attorney but only learned of the shooting on Monday.
Hall’s four other children have been placed in protective custody.
Court records show that Hall was granted custody of the two children he had with Neal. The Los Angeles Times reported that Neal sought reunification with her children and in Hall’s court filings in response to her request he described his son’s troubled past, saying he had been removed from several schools for “his wild and sometimes violent actions.”
Hall was southwest regional leader of the National Socialist Movement, an organization that advocates white supremacy. He led rallies against illegal immigration and outside a local synagogue, stoking outcry from a host of community groups and residents concerned about the rise in hate groups in the vast suburbs southeast of Los Angeles.
Hall, who advocated for a breakaway white nation, also lost a bid last year for a seat on the Western Municipal Water District board in Riverside.
The Anti-Defamation League considers Hall’s organization to be the country’s largest neo-Nazi group.