GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A 15-year-old who shot and killed his foster father and another man at a remote Oregon cabin in 2012 never meant to kill anyone and never should have been around loaded guns due to his lack of maturity after years of abuse and other problems, a defense lawyer says.
The boy made admissions Wednesday in Grant County Court in Canyon City to the juvenile equivalent of manslaughter. A judge ordered him into state custody until he turns 25, when he will be eligible for release, defense attorney Kathie Berger said.
The boy told authorities he got scared and accidentally shot the men — foster father Michael Piete of Baker City and Piete's uncle, Kenneth Gilliland — during a hunting trip.
"Unfortunately, two people died as a result of some decisions that when you look back on them, you are left just shaking your head: 'What in the world were you thinking?'" Berger said.
Grant County District Attorney Ryan Joslin did not immediately return a call for comment.
Berger said the boy was abused as a young child and went into a series of foster homes and juvenile care facilities, where he displayed behavioral problems.
He was sent to live with the Piete and his wife despite a lack of local treatment services available to him. When he started high school — the first public school he ever attended on his own — he was soon tossed out.
Piete had planned a hunting trip with his uncle and friends. Rather than place the teen with someone else while he was gone, he took him along to do chores as a sort of punishment, Berger said.
Events at the cabin are unclear, and the boy's statement to state police conflicts with the evidence in some respects, Berger said.
According to his statement, which was played in open court at an earlier hearing, the boy got hold of a loaded .44 Magnum revolver. He had heard there were wolves around, and thinking he saw a pair of eyes in the darkness, he fired, hitting Gilliland.
Then he went inside the cabin, where he got more scared because people were yelling at him. The boy fired wildly toward the upstairs loft, where others in the party were sleeping. A bullet passed through a bookcase and hit Piete, who was standing after being awakened by the gunfire.
The boy grabbed a rifle on his way out the door, and while outside, fell and shot himself in the leg with the revolver.
Using the rifle as a crutch, he made his way back to the cabin. One of the other men had driven to the little town of Granite to call 911. Another taped the boy to a chair until deputies arrived.
The boy was taken to a Boise hospital, where he was interviewed by a state police detective. The Associated Press is withholding the boy's name due to his age.
"Was it reckless for him to pick up guns? Yes it was," Berger said. "Was it reckless for him to shoot the guns? Very reckless.
"When you look through the decisions made by professional people and adults who were supposed to be looking out for (the boy) due to his needs, it's just a tragedy."
The boy originally was held on juvenile charges of aggravated murder, and prosecutors tried to have him tried as an adult. A judge denied the request after experts examined the boy and found he had the maturity of a 9-year-old. State law bars anyone younger than 12 from being tried as an adult.