Originally created 12/23/01

Preteen escapes charges in killing



Investigators and prosecutors will meet early this week to decide how to handle the case.

A 12-year-old boy who police say severely beat his 18-month-old cousin will not be charged with murder even though the toddler died from her injuries, authorities said.

District Attorney Danny Craig said Saturday that because the boy is younger than 13, he cannot be charged with a crime.

Taj'sha Sierra Adams died Friday night at Medical College of Georgia Hospital from massive body trauma, Richmond County Deputy Coroner Mark Bowen said.

She was taken to MCG on Dec. 15 after she was left alone with her cousin at a house on 15th Street, police said. A woman at the house refused to comment Saturday.

The boy, whose name has not been released because of his age, was placed in the Regional Youth Detention Center early last week and is still being held there, said Richmond County Sheriff's Office Investigator Scott White.

Investigator White said he will meet with Mr. Craig early this week to discuss how to proceed with the case.

Taj'sha's body was sent to the crime lab in Atlanta on Saturday for an autopsy, Mr. Bowen said.

Preliminary results found that the toddler suffered severe internal injuries, including a ruptured spleen and liver, blunt force trauma to the abdomen, trauma to her face, kidney contusions and rib fractures, Mr. Bowen said.

The injuries could have been caused by the child being hit with an object, punched or being slammed into something, Mr. Bowen said. Investigators have not released details of how Taj'sha was injured.

The case presents challenges because of the boy's age. Investigator White said he couldn't remember a case in the area in which an offender younger than 13 was accused of a killing.

"Basically we're looking at charging a 12-year-old, and under state law a 12-year-old doesn't have the malicious intent to cause this crime or to effect this crime," he said. "It's just one of those deals where you (ask) 'What was his real intent?'

"It's not one of those easy, clear cases."

Mr. Craig said regardless of the nature of the crime the rules for offenders younger than 13 are different.

Although the petition in juvenile court will state that the boy committed murder, he won't be charged with that, Mr. Craig said.

"The final decision made in juvenile court will be to determine if the juvenile is delinquent or not delinquent, never a determination of guilty or not guilty," he said.

The 12-year-old could face up to 60 months in a youth detention center if the court finds he is delinquent, Mr. Craig said.

If the boy were 13, he could be tried as an adult. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life.

Staff Writer Vicky Eckenrode contributed to this story.

Reach Albert Ross at (706) 823-3339 or albert.ross@augustachronicle.com.