Boy won't be tried as adult in killing

A 12-year-old boy charged with murder in the shooting death of an Augusta man late Wednesday is too young to be tried as an adult, authorities say, meaning that if convicted he could not be detained beyond his 21st birthday.

The boy, identified by police as Coreon Andreiko Jackson, a former seventh-grader at Tubman Middle School, was arrested on charges of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Police said he was involved in a Wednesday night home invasion on Fenwick Street in which Roosevelt Cowins, 65, was fatally shot. Police have charged 21-year-old Willie Herbert Casey, of Augusta, with murder in the case.

Some Richmond County police said they could not remember another case in the Augusta area in which someone so young was charged with murder. Neighbors and relatives of Mr. Cowins were in shock Thursday.

"Roosevelt never bothered anyone. He kept to himself. He didn't deserve anything like this," said Mr. Cowins' sister, Lillian Trant, 70, who was inside Mr. Cowins' home at the time of the shooting. Ms. Trant said she heard two shots, and her brother, a retired home builder, stumbled down the hallway and fell into her bedroom doorway. That's when she encountered Mr. Casey and Coreon, who she said pointed a gun at her and asked, "Do you have money?"

"I told him I didn't have any money. And I wasn't nice about the way I said it. I couldn't believe this child had the nerve to do this," she said, adding that she heard the boy laughing as he left Mr. Cowins' house.

Neighbor Betty Key, 22, said she couldn't believe what had happened.

"Mr. Roosevelt and Ms. Lillian are very sweet people. They would both help baby-sit my children if I needed them," she said.

Coreon isn't the one you'd expect to commit such a tragic crime, said school public safety Officer Patrick Paquette, who worked with Coreon and called him lost. The boy skipped school often, but when he attended he would get into mischief typical of boys his age.

"He was a nice young fellow," Officer Paquette said. "He got caught up with the wrong people, and I can honestly say that."

The officer said he spends most of his time at the school acting as a father to children from broken homes, such as Coreon.

"He's just looking for that father figure, and he found them in those older boys," Officer Paquette said. "That's the thing with these gangs around here in Augusta; they fill the gap."

Sheriff's Investigator Brandon Beckman said police do not believe the incident was gang related by that Coreon and Mr. Casey were going to Mr. Cowin's house to get money.

Coreon was being reared by his grandmother, sheriff's Sgt. Richard Roundtree said at a Take Back the Streets event at Tubman. Next month, Take Back the Streets will start an initiative to get fathers active in schools.

District Attorney William Bowcutt said Coreon cannot be tried as an adult in Superior Court. Under normal circumstances, the most prosecutors could expect would be two years of detention for rehabilitation purposes. If prosecutors can convince the juvenile court judge that the circumstances warrant it, the judge could order Coreon held until his 21st birthday, he said.

Mr. Bowcutt said he would oppose any temporary release from custody. Georgia law allows for the prosecution of children as adults if they commit one of the most serious crimes, such as murder, rape or armed robbery. The cutoff age, however, is 13.

"People have a hard time believing a child age 12 would knowingly commit such a crime," Mr. Bowcutt said.

Witnesses said Mr. Cowins answered the door Wednesday and two suspects forced their way into his home. Police say they believe the shots overheard by Mr. Cowins' sister were fired by Mr. Casey. Ms. Trant said she saw the younger suspect stand over her brother and demand money before firing a bullet into his chest, according to the report.

Authorities say Coreon was arrested after an investigator recalled that his description matched that of the suspect in a Jan. 28 robbery of the Circle K at 1739 Walton Way. A third man, Kerry Lavert Hamilton, 20, was questioned and released.

Staff Writers Timothy Cox and Greg Gelpi contributed to this article.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.