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Judge certifies juveniles to be tried as adults for murders near Lampe

April 23, 2013|by Gene Hartley | ghartley@schurz.com

GALENA, Mo. -- Stone County Juvenile Court Judge Alan Blankenship ruled Tuesday that two teenagers accused of murdering a couple from Michigan will be tried as adults.   Blankenship made his ruling after a hearing last week in which he heard details about the murders of Paul and Margaret Brooks on Jan. 31, as well about the lives and mentalities of the teenagers.

The rulings mean the prosecutions of Anthony Zarro, 17, and Christopher Allen, 16, will be handled by the Stone County prosecuting attorney's office instead of the county's Juvenile Department.  Both boys have had birthdays this spring, meaning Zarro was 16 and Allen was 15 at the time of the murders.

Selby immediately filed identical charges against both teenagers: two counts of first-degree murder, one count of robbery, count of burglary, and three counts of armed criminal action.   They're scheduled for their first appearances in Associate Circuit Court on Friday.

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The Brookses were killed at a cabin next to Table Rock Lake near Lampe.  The cabin belongs to their son, a doctor in Springfield.  The retired couple was spending the winter there.  They would have been married 50 years in July.

Zarro, who is from Spring, Texas, and Allen, who is from Nashville, Tenn., ran away from the Lives Under Construction Boys Ranch on Jan. 29.  Early on Jan. 31, the ranch staff told detectives, someone broke into the ranch's office, apparently looking for keys to the ranch's vehicles.  The keys were moved after the boys ran away.  Several days later, according to the probable cause statement against the boys, Zarro admitted they broke in to the office to look for vehicle keys.

On the afternoon of Jan. 31, a neighbor of the Brookses found the boys at the Brookses' cabin on Trace Hollow Road, just a mile or so from the ranch.  The neighbor saw the boys come out of a neighboring cabin, load stolen property into the Brookses' vehicle, and drive back to the Brookses' cabin and go inside.

The neighbor held the boys at gunpoint until Stone County sheriff's deputies arrived.  A deputy asked the boys if anyone was in the Brookses' cabin, and reports Zarro said, "I killed them, I beat them with a baseball bat and stabbed them," according to the probable cause statements.

Deputies found the boys with credit cards and driver's licenses belonging to the Brookses, according to the probable cause statement.   They found evidence that the couple, who were age 69 and 70, were stabbed and beaten in the cabin's kitchen and dragged to a bedroom, and that the murderers tried to clean up the mess in the kitchen.

The investigation also found items that were stolen from the neighboring cabin on Trace Hollow Road, including a bedpost in the back of the Brookses' car that appeared to have been used to beat the Brookses.   Autopsies found the Brookses died from their stab wounds, according to the probable cause statement.  The investigation found blood splatter on both of the boys' clothing.

Blankenship's ruling is actually a dismissal of the juvenile department charges so he can be "prosecuted under the general law," which is the legal term for adult court cases.  Under state law, Blankenship had to cite specific facts about why the cases could not be handled in Juvenile Court.  They include:

  • the felonies in the charges are serious;
  • the offenses involved viciousness, force and violence and the use of a weapon;
  • the offenses are part of a repetitive pattern of offenses that show the boys may be beyond rehabilitation under the juvenile code;
  • Zarro's juvenile record includes a burglary, and shows his parents and the juvenile justice system tried to rehabilitate him at a boys ranch in Texas for two-and-a-half years before he came to Lives Under Construction Boys Ranch two-and-a-half years ago;
  • Allen had been at Lives Under Construction Boys Ranch for 23 months, "mentored by adults, and taught adult life skills and trades" but "failed to derive benefit" from those services;
  • both teens are emotionally sophsticated and physically mature;
  • no facility in the juvenile justice system would sufficiently protect the community; and
  • no evidence shows either boy would benefit from more treatment in a juvenile facility.
The teenagers are being held in the Stone County jail in lieu of $2 million bonds each.  If they're convicted of first-degree murder, they will get life prison sentences.  A U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits death sentences for juveniles who are convicted of murders.
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