Lawyers for the Lawrence County teenager found responsible for the shooting death of his father's pregnant fiancee plan to seek his release as a result of an appeals court ruling overturning the initial juvenile court decision.
But what's next for Jordan Brown, 15, who has been in a juvenile detention facility since prosecutors said he fatally shot Kenzie Houk, 26, in 2009 is unclear.
Attorney Stephen Colafella said he assumes the Superior Court opinion filed Wednesday -- citing unsupported evidence and sending the case back to Lawrence County juvenile court -- means his client will get a new trial.
"We really want to try this again," Mr. Colafella said Thursday. "We want another shot."
The Pennsylvania attorney general's office, which prosecuted the case, is still reviewing it following the appeals court's findings this week, said Dennis Fisher, a spokesman for the AG's office. He would not discuss where Jordan may go next.
In April 2012, Jordan was adjudicated delinquent, the equivalent of a guilty verdict in adult criminal court, in the homicides of Ms. Houk and her unborn child.
Prosecutors said he shot her in the back of the head while she slept in their New Beaver farmhouse and discarded the shell in the yard before boarding the school bus. He was 11 years old.
The case attracted international attention and was closely watched by juvenile justice advocates, as he was initially charged as an adult.
Kenzie Houk's mother, Debbie Houk, 59, of Shenango Township, said her family has been "very upset" since they learned about the opinion Wednesday afternoon. She and her husband, Jack, have been raising their daughter's two girls, now 8 and 12, since their mother's death.
"My daughter, and that baby, their lives were worth something. He did it, and that's it. There's no other possible way," Ms. Houk said. "I don't know what more evidence they need."
But the Superior Court said the evidence the state presented in court last year could not support the charges -- even the details prosecutors thought strengthened their case most.
For one, the Superior Court said, there was a 45-minute window from when Jordan and one of Ms. Houk's daughters caught the school bus and a tree company gathering firewood on the lot arrived for work.
"The Commonwealth presented no evidence to establish whether or not anybody entered or exited the residence during this 45 minute span," the opinion reads.
Mr. Colafella said he considers that among the most significant details.
"I think the trial sort of glossed over it," he said. "They discounted that time period, and the possibility that someone else could have done it."
The Superior Court pointed out several more problems with the evidence the prosecution presented.
The owner of the tree company, Steve Cable, testified in the initial hearing that he saw children's footprints in the snow as he drove up the hill for work, an "unremarkable" finding, the Superior Court decided, because their bus driver testified the pair ran down the driveway to catch the bus that day.
No witness testified about footprints on the property or at any of the other entrances to the house, the Superior Court said.
"The juvenile court, however, reached a much broader (and unsupported) finding of fact from Cable's testimony -- namely that because the only footprints he observed were accounted for ([the children] running to the bus), no other person approached the residence by foot that morning," the opinion said.
Additionally, the opinion noted, Ms. Houk's oldest daughter did not testify about what she saw that day, a fact Mr. Colafella said "blew us all away." The bus driver testified that nothing seemed out of the ordinary when the children got on bus.
There was also little forensic evidence, the Superior Court said: No fingerprints on the gun, no blood on Jordan's clothes. A particle of gunshot residue was found on his shirt, and another on his pants, but other articles of clothing, and his hands, weren't tested for it, the opinion read.
If Jordan ends up back in court, Ms. Houk said she'll be there, hard as it may be.
"I don't know that we can do it," she said. "I want to, and I have every intention of doing it."
First Published May 9, 2013 3:15 AM