A juvenile court judge ruled Wednesday that a 16-year-old boy accused of fatally stabbing the female principal of his Memphis private school and leaving her in a pool of blood in a classroom should be tried as an adult.
Eduardo Marmolejo should be transferred to adult court and held without bond, Special Judge Herbert Lane decided after a hearing in Memphis. A grand jury will determine whether to indict Marmolejo, who was described by one psychologist as having fantasies that he was a soldier or a ninja.
The teen was initially charged as a juvenile with first-degree murder in the Aug. 10 stabbing of Suzette York in a classroom at Memphis Junior Academy on the third day of classes. The 49-year-old principal was found by a teacher at the school, which has less than 100 students and is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
State prosecutor Reggie Henderson said Marmolejo stabbed York nine times in the throat and neck, adding the attacker sought to make the first cut to the victim's windpipe in order to prevent her screams from being heard.
Defense attorneys didn't argue whether or not Marmolejo committed the killing. Instead, they questioned homicide detectives about how they interrogated the teen, who had his mother present when he was interviewed by two officers the day of the stabbing.
Memphis police Sgt. Darren Goods said Marmolejo voluntarily waived his right to a lawyer and subsequently confessed. But defense attorney Whit Gurkin questioned whether the teen was coerced though psychological techniques often used by officers during interrogations.
"Under the circumstances, you can't have a voluntary waiver of rights," Gurkin said.
Police Sgt. Anthony Mullins testified that evidence showed that after the stabbing, Marmolejo changed clothes and tried to get rid of the knife he used in the killing by flushing it down the toilet.
In a an affidavit for a search warrant, Mullins wrote that Marmolejo told investigators that he had planned the killing since May by researching close-combat methods, and he had sharpened the knife the night before the stabbing.
Mullins also testified that Marmolejo seemed nervous and "inappropriately happy" when questioned hours after the stabbing.
"I told him he had nothing to be happy about," Mullins said.
Earlier Wednesday, psychologists for both sides gave conflicting testimony about the teen's competency.
John Ciocca, a psychologist hired by the defense, testified thatt the teen was unable to make decisions and communicate rationally with his attorneys. He added that Marmolejo had been suspended from school on some occasions and showed symptoms of a psychotic disorder.
"His mental instability interfered with his ability to communicate," Ciocca said, adding the defendant would sometimes lapse into a fantasy world in which he saw himself as a soldier or a ninja.
"Eduardo Marmolejo sees himself as a fighter, as a soldier," Ciocca said. "He would retreat to this role of being a powerful person."
Cindy Orenduff, a psychologist testifying for the state, said she believes the teen is competent because he understands the consequences of his actions and has been able to communicate with his lawyers. She said Marmolejo is an intelligent person who may have a personality disorder but still can be tried as an adult.
"He has a very clear understanding of the process," Orenduff said.
Lane ruled that Marmolejo was competent enough to allow the process of moving him to adult court to continue.
The teen's parents were present at the hearing and could be seen crying at times.They declined comment afterward.