Beaver Falls police find teens, want to charge person who hid them
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Beaver Falls police are looking to file charges against the person who harbored a pair of fugitive 14-year-olds during a 10-day, two-county manhunt.
Chief Charles R. Jones Jr. declined to name the person or state a relationship to the teens, Marcus Velasquez and Todavia Cleckley, who are accused of killing a young mother Dec. 8.
Deputy John Gallagher, who oversees the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force in Western Pennsylvania that arrested the boys around 10 p.m. Tuesday, said they were found in the living room of an associate's home on 34th Street in Beaver Falls. His team had followed leads throughout Beaver County and the Pittsburgh area for the last week.
"I appreciate the cooperation of the task force and I'm very pleased to get these young men off the street," Chief Jones said.
The boys and a third suspect, Kyle Goosby, 13, were arrested in connection with the death of 22-year-old Kayla Peterson.
William Bailey, Ms. Peterson's fiance and the father of her 23-month-old daughter, told police he encountered the three teens around 3 p.m. Dec. 8 as he turned onto 14th Street walking home from J's News, a convenience store on the town's main strip of businesses along Seventh Avenue.
The boys, he said, asked him for a cigarette. He ignored them and kept walking the three blocks to his house on 13th Street as the teens followed, yelling to him.
He said he heard a click, which resonated with him as the sound of someone cocking a gun, as he walked under the carport of his residence. Then Kayla Peterson came out of the house and told the boys to "go get a job and quit bumming cigarettes."
After an exchange of words, one of the boys pulled out a handgun and fired a shot toward the couple, striking Ms. Peterson in the stomach. A juvenile witness standing a half-block away on 13th Street and Fifth Avenue identified Marcus as the shooter.
When police arrived, Ms. Peterson was lying inside a small wooden fence that lines the front of the house as a woman put pressure on her wound. She died hours later in an emergency room at Allegheny General Hospital.
The next day, a photo of two boys pointing guns at the camera was posted to Todavia's Facebook page.
Mr. Bailey said he had faith that police would catch the young suspects.
"It is a weight off my shoulder, but it's a long process to trial and that's what I'm worried about," Mr. Bailey said. "I just want justice for my girl."
But the case has already experienced a few problems for prosecutors.
After the shooting, Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said all three suspects would be charged as adults due to the "seriousness of the event" and based on the theory that "one person did the shooting and the two others helped."
Marcus faces charges of criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and criminal conspiracy to commit homicide. Any charge of homicide in the state, regardless of the suspect's age, is automatically tried in the adult court system.
Kyle, who was arrested Dec. 10 and is out on bail, and Todavia each face one felony charge of criminal conspiracy to commit homicide.
Because the conspiracy charges are not capital crimes, by state law the two boys cannot be automatically tried as adults, said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center.
The district attorney's office would have to file a motion before a judge to move Todavia's case out of juvenile court, and age limits prevent 13-year-old Kyle from being tried as an adult.
Michael Santicola, a defense attorney representing Kyle, said he believes the district attorney's office "jumped the gun" on charging his client.
He said the boy's mother dropped him off at the convenience store blocks from his house when he ran into Todavia and Marcus, described as "acquaintances" from school, although Marcus was not currently enrolled. He said Kyle walked with them as they followed Mr. Bailey, but wasn't involved in the shooting.
"He was walking away before the gun play started," Mr. Santicola said. "There was certainly no conspiring to do anything."
Mr. Bailey has been quoted in the news saying that Kyle ran when he saw the gun. When asked about the statement Wednesday, he said he was misquoted, but declined to explain in further detail because he was asked to no longer speak about the events.
Chief Jones declined to comment on whether Mr. Bailey's statement about Kyle's actions would affect the charges against the boy. Calls to Mr. Berosh were not returned.
Ms. Levick said district attorneys often take opportunities to try juveniles in the adult criminal justice system, but one benefit of keeping their cases in juvenile court is the ability to participate in rehabilitation.
Children are less culpable for their crimes, often committed in a group due to peer pressure, than adults and typically grow out of their offending behavior, she said.
"Someone has a gun and it's impulsive, impetuous, it's reckless, it's horrible, unquestionably, but it's not premeditated in most of these cases," she said. "It's in the moment, it's a crazy awful decision that kids make."
Beaver Falls Mayor George Quay said this type of brazen crime is rare in his city, which had just one murder in 2011, according to FBI statistics.
"Anything can happen to anyone at anytime," he said. "It's just an unfortunate situation."
First Published December 20, 2012 12:00 am