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Decision to try 12-year-old as adult requires evaluation

John Thompson • Yesterday at 12:11 AM

teruko-shaw-1MOUNTAIN CITY — Tony Clark’s First Judicial District covers four counties.

Clark said on Wednesday afternoon that he has not reached a decision on whether he will seek to try a 12-year-old boy as an adult in the 2015 death of 84-year-old Teruko Shaw of Butler.

The boy is charged with felony murder, especially aggravated burglary and theft of property.

“I have never seen a case like this because of how young the boy is, and the seriousness of the charge,” Clark said. The defendant is now 12, but when Shaw was killed on Dec. 6, 2015, the boy was only 11.

Clark will play a key role in the decision on whether or not to try the boy as an adult.

Under Tennessee law, Clark will be the starting point in the decision. He must file a motion with Johnson County Sessions Court Judge William Bliss Hawkins, who has juvenile court jurisdiction in Johnson County, to transfer the case.

The motion would cause the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to begin an evaluation to determine if the boy meets several conditions required by state law on transfers.

That includes a mental evaluation of the boy. Any prior delinquency record would also be evaluated, and whether the juvenile system can treat him. The boy’s age and the seriousness of the charge are also considered.

The law requires the juvenile to be at least 16 years old for the case to be transferred to an adult court. Juveniles younger than 16 may be transferred in such serious charges as murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping or rape.

After the Department of Children’s Services has competed its report, the decision on whether or not to transfer the case to adult court would be made by Hawkins.

While these considerations would be made in the near future, Clark was able to speak openly about the investigation of Shaw’s death and bringing charges on the juvenile.

“The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation did a great job,” said Clark, who has observed their work from the start. Although the boy is being held in another state, Clark said he was with his family and was not a runaway.

Clark has some time to reach his decision because the boy has not yet been extradited to Tennessee. He said the boy has every right that an adult has in extradition proceedings, plus a few more because a parent or guardian must be present when authorities talk with the boy.