Monday, July 30, 2007

Murder, yes it was. But this case screams for a lesser charge.

We know one thing. Matthew Booth's 13 year old daughter deliberately shot him in the face with a shotgun. And she is charged with an open count of murder, for which she will be tried as an adult and maybe spend the rest of her life in prison.

But she shouldn't.

If Matthew Booth was murdered, maybe it is because a system didn't care, despite his having been reported to Allegheny County Officials who didn't bother to follow up. And a trapped child, living with her brother in animal feces and sexually abused by her father, finally did about the only thing she could think of. She killed him.

BUENA VISTA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A 13-year-old girl used a shotgun to fatally shoot her father in the head early Monday in a home overrun with animals and filth, police said.

The girl told investigators she used a 12-gauge shotgun to shoot 34-year-old Matthew Booth in the face while he was in bed, according to a police affidavit.

A police complaint did not identify a motive in the killing, but her mother, Michelle Fazek, who was separated from Booth, said she had complained several times to county child welfare officials that her daughter and her brother, 14, were living in squalor and that her daughter had been abused.

"I just want to see her," Fazek said. "She must be so scared."

Messages left for Allegheny County's Office of Children, Youth and Families were not immediately returned.

The Associated Press does not identify victims of possible sexual abuse.

The girl appeared in municipal court late Monday wearing a maroon county jail uniform, her hands and ankles cuffed, where she was charged as an adult with criminal homicide and ordered held without bail.

The house in Elizabeth Township, about 20 miles southeast of Pittsburgh was in deplorable condition, police said.

"They had a number of animals, dogs, cats and rabbits. They hadn't cleaned up after them," said James Morton, assistant superintendent of Allegheny County Police. The two-story frame house had dirty, peeling white siding, and a downstairs window was boarded up.

Yeah, I know. Maybe she should have run away. Perhaps, but to where? Life on the streets is pretty dangerous for a thirteen year old girl. Gangs, drugs, rape, forced prostitution, maybe becoming a murder victim herself-- that is what can be expected for a thirteen year old runaway. Of course if she ran to her (apparently non-custodial) mother, it is very likely that the police would look there first and that she would simply be returned home-- and I'm sure punished by her father in a horrible manner. Beyond that, a thirteen year old probably doesn't know enough about life to know about battered women's shelters or other places she could seek help.

The county officials will undoubtedly pat themselves on the back if they get a conviction, and chalk up another 'solved crime' brought to a successful conclusion. A statistic. They won't even think twice about the failure of the County's Department of Children, Youth and Families.

No, murder is never the right choice to get out of a situation. But a murder charge in this case is inappropriate. A charge of perhaps voluntary manslaughter, followed by a sentence to be served someplace where this girl can get the help she needs, is what the prosecutors should pursue.


Emily said...

This is horrible. I'm not saying what she did doesn't deserve any punishment at all, she does need to face punishment for her actions, regardless of circumstances. But regardless of the circumstances, a 13 year old should NEVER be charged as an adult!! I know I certainly wasn't any kind of adult when I was 13. She should be charged as a juvenile. If I were to sentence her, I would give her 1 year in juvenile detention and 5 years probation. This girl is the one to be felt sorry for in this story, not her father.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I couldn't agree more.

Chuck said...

Hopefully it will get the same type of media attention as you give it here. Hopefully a jury will be sympathetic. Hopefully her lawyer will defend her to the best of his/her abilities. Hopefully she'll get a decent judge.

Karen said...

Hopefully, Chuck's suggestions will happen.

shrimplate said...

She's suffered enough. If guilty the sentence should be "time served."

thephoenixnyc said...

Wow, that's a horrible story. Definitely calls for juvenilel treatment and years of therapy to brink her back from the brink her neglect brought her to.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the first comment about trying the girl as an adult. The entire concept of trying juveniles as adults needs to be rethought; we cannot have it both ways. That is, we cannot tell a 13, 14 or even 17 year old on one hand that she is legally subject to the care custody and control of her parents until age 18 and then, on the other hand, give prosecutors (as is the case in most states, the discretion to try as an adult rests solely with the prosecutor) unimpeded leeway to capriciously charge juveniles as adults. Any reasonable person can see that is a ludicrous situation. It creates inevitably biased prosecutions--African-American youths are tried as adults at far greater rates than other youths...though I don't know this girl's race, so I am unsure of if that applies to this case. People need to start pressuring their legislators to change this law. In the eyes of the law, a child is either a child or not. Any argument otherwise is irrational.

Anonymous said...

I am a pretty open-minded person who is willing to listen to both sides of any story..HOWEVER...if I were on the jury, there is no way in good conscience could I assist in putting this child away with the same charges as some drug-crazed random shooter. The pain that this girl has already suffered...and WILL CONTINUE TO SUFFER EVEN IF HER "FATHER" LIVED TO THE RIPE OLD AGE OF far-reaching any jail sentence. On top of whatever abandonment issues she has from her mother, which seem to be significant since she specifically asked not to have her involved, her faith and trust in male relationships is shattered.

I'm not saying she should just get off scot-free, but prison shouldn't be her destination. Even if by unfortunate circumstances she does end up there by the hand of some twisted prosecutor, at least she will get civil treatment and clean living quarters...and I hope that her brother can get the help that he will need as well. Where do you even begin in a case like this?

Sympathetic in Boston said...

This story reminds me of a young girl who suffered something similar, will be forever young and in my mind, has unmeasurable strength of character, and is no longer with us by a twist of fate.

I grew up in a fairly affluent town outside of Boston, and when we were in grade school, we had a classmate who also was the victim of years of unknown (to the outside) sexual abuse. This story of this teen hurts me when I read it because I think of our former classmate and how she, too, could have been helped if someone just paid attention. Instead, she was picked on and teased throughout the years (because children can be cruel and she was "different"...she was adopted, she wore "ratty clothes" (in comparison to some of the snobbier kids in the class), and she was (understandably!!!) quiet. She suffered at school with her peers, and what no one seemed to know or notice, was she suffered even more so at home.

And here I thought that society was more attentive to these things nowadays...I was just thinking of this former classmate the other day and how she could've been helped so much more quickly now than then...and this story in Buena Vista has to show up and shatter my theory.

To make matters worse, my classmate's "foster father" (who was the abuser) was the Director of Office for Children. He took in her, her sister, and a few other children into his home. Her foster mother was wheelchair bound, and never was able to make it to the upper floors of the home where the abuse apparently took place. He photographed all the kids together in different sexual poses (which were later found), among other things.

Years later, my classmate and her family finally got the strength to go to the authorities and expose him. He was convicted easily, is serving Life in prison, and thanks to the democracy of our nation, is able to vote by absentee ballot at every election.

My classmate, who turned out to be a very bright girl and a wonderful flute player in the school band...was looking forward to a brighter Life. She found a man who loved her, became engaged to be married....and three days later was killed at 22 years old in a horrible car accident that involved her being broadsided on the driver's side by an 18-wheeler truck that ran a red light because 5 of his 8 brakes were faulty.

Cruel twist of irony for a beautiful, kind, and harmless girl who was unfortunately in a situation that she was able to get out of and actually have the "system" finally work for them and presumably was getting the help she needed to live a more stable and normal Life. And she has left an indelible impression on me that will last a Lifetime.

May she rest in peace, and I can only hope that someday, this girl from PA can find the same strength that my classmate did to pick up and start over someday.

Anonymous said...

He's lucky she killed him. If she hadn't, he'd die a lot more horribly in prison, like child molesters usually do.