Judge delays ruling on whether Burke County 10-year-old's confession will be played at trial

WAYNESBORO, Ga. — A Juvenile Court judge delayed his ruling Wednesday as to whether the recorded confession of a 10-year-old boy accused of murder will be played at trial.

The boy, who has not been publicly identified because of his age, is charged with murder and possession of a firearm in connection with the death of Jennifer Albright, 31, who was killed in the Fry Lane home she shared with the boy, his father and his 19-month-old sister.

A four-hour hearing was held Wednesday to establish whether the statements would be allowed at trial, but Judge Willie Saunders did not issue an order at the request of the boy’s attorney, Pete Theodocion.

Theodocion asked to submit a brief instead of an oral argument because he wanted a copy of the transcript of the hearing first. That’s expected to delay a ruling until about mid-March.

In court Wednesday, a Burke County sheriff’s investigator and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent were questioned about the confession, which came about three hours after the suspect was brought to the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.

The young defendant first stated that a stranger in a ski mask burst into the home, grabbed the shotgun he was showing to his friend and killed his father’s girlfriend of two years.

In the recorded statement, he suddenly admits to lying and begins sobbing about how the gun went off when he accidentally dropped it.

He says he lied because he didn’t want his dad to take away the single-barrel 12-gauge shotgun he received for Christmas five days earlier.

“I don’t want to go to (juvenile lockup),” the boy wails.

Investigators take a break after his admission to talk with the boy’s father, then start a second interview after reading the defendant his Miranda rights.

In this second interview, the suspect further breaks down and admits to aiming at Albright and shooting her. He repeatedly says he’s sorry and at one point asks his father, who is sitting with him, whether he still loves him. His father replies he does.

Theodocion criticized the investigators’ procedures in the case, emphasizing through his questions that investigators were questioning a 10-year-old and casting doubt on whether his client understood his rights.

“To be honest, this type of crime doesn’t happen often,” GBI Agent Wendell Goodwin said.

Saunders will hear arguments in Richmond County on Tuesday about whether the defendant can be released from juvenile lockup until trial.

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