Boy, 11, charged in slaying of father's girlfriend
February 22, 2009 5:00 AM
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
The farmhouse where Kenzie Marie Houk was killed on Friday in Lawrence County.
Jordan Anthony Brown
By Jerome L. Sherman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NEW BEAVER -- Chris Brown bought his 11-year-old son, Jordan, a 20-gauge shotgun for Christmas. He wanted to teach him how to hunt.
Now, law enforcement authorities said, the shotgun is the suspected murder weapon in the death of Mr. Brown's pregnant girlfriend, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, who was shot in the back of the head Friday morning as she lay in bed at their two-story farmhouse near New Castle, Lawrence County.
Jordan Brown is accused of firing the fatal shot.
Early yesterday, the boy was arrested and charged with two counts of homicide, including the killing of an unborn child. He is being held in isolation at the Lawrence County Jail.
Under Pennsylvania law, a juvenile accused of homicide is charged as an adult.
Ms. Houk had been expected to deliver in early March. Her 4-year-old daughter, Adalynn, discovered her body, police said.
"This is something that you wouldn't ever think of in your worst nightmare," Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo said yesterday during a news conference. "It's heinous, the whole situation."
The district attorney wouldn't talk about a possible motive in the slaying. He said Mr. Brown currently does not face charges.
Police said they believe the shooting occurred between 7 a.m., when Mr. Brown left for work, and 9 a.m., when Jordan Brown and Ms. Houk's older daughter, 7-year-old Jenessa, caught their school bus.
At first, investigators focused on one of Ms. Houk's ex-boyfriends, Mr. Bongivengo said.They picked up both Jenessa and Jordan from Mohawk Elementary School, and, during an interview, Jordan told them he had seen an unknown truck near their home that morning, he said.
But the boy's story changed several times during the day, Mr. Bongivengo said. Police later found the shotgun, described as a "youth model," in his bedroom. They also saw no signs of struggle or a forced entry. Mr. Bongivengo said an interview with Jenessa also pointed toward Jordan's involvement, although he declined to discuss what the girl told police.
Lawrence County Coroner Russell Noga said the fatal shot was fired no more than a foot from the expectant mother's head. He said the unborn child, a full-term boy who weighed about 7 1/2 pounds, died of oxygen deprivation.
Friends and relatives of Ms. Houk were stunned when they learned that Jordan had been accused of killing her.
"She treated that boy like he was her own," said Ms. Houk's grandmother, Dolly Burns, 74. "She was a wonderful mother. She loved anything and everything."
Mrs. Burns cried softly as she spoke, sitting at a small kitchen table in the home of Ms. Houk's parents, Debbie and Jack Houk, of Shenango. A dozen people surrounded her.
One woman held a picture of Ms. Houk as a teenager, with dark blond hair, brown eyes and a beaming smile.
Mrs. Burns described her granddaughter as a warm, happy person who loved her family. She was a graduate of Shenango High School and she worked as a hair stylist.
Ms. Houk stopped working when she became pregnant with her third child -- her first with Mr. Brown. They had been friends since their teenage years, and they started dating about a year ago, relatives said. They became engaged in December.
Mr. Brown, who is employed at a factory in New Castle, had been raising Jordan on his own before he became involved with Ms. Houk, relatives said. He, Jordan, Ms. Houk, and her two daughters moved to the 1100 block of Wampum-New Galilee Road in New Beaver four months ago, according to Robert Taylor, their landlord.
Yesterday, yellow police tape blocked the dirt road that leads to Mr. Taylor's 55-acre property, which is also home to his cattle farm. Police continued to search the house where the shooting occurred.
"We don't live in a part of Pennsylvania where things like this happen," said a startled Mr. Taylor.
Both Mr. Brown and Ms. Houk came from families with strong hunting backgrounds, and Ms. Houk's relatives said she eagerly supported buying Jordan his first shotgun.
A week ago, her family threw a baby shower at a local Eat'n Park, and, on Thursday, she was at her parent's house to celebrate the birthday of her mother and her youngest daughter.
The next morning, authorities said, the 4-year-old girl was upstairs when she heard a "muffled" sound from the first floor. She later told a tree-trimming crew working on the property that her mother was unresponsive. The workers called 911 about 10 a.m.
Ms. Houk's daughters are now staying with her parents, relatives said. Yesterday afternoon, the girls' grandparents took them to meet with a crisis counselor.
Jordan Brown faces a preliminary hearing Thursday.