The family of a pregnant Pennsylvania woman who was slain along with her unborn son in 2009 is objecting to the release of the convicted killer, who was 11 at the time of the slaying.
The parents of the victim, Kenzie Houk, 26, and other relatives confirmed Jordan Brown was released after a Monday juvenile court hearing closed to the public. Lawrence County judge John Hodge has jurisdiction over Brown until he's 21 and put the 18-year-old on probation in the custody of an uncle, who lives in Ohio, just across the border from the western Pennsylvania county where Houk was slain. Houk was the fiancée of Brown's father.
Prosecutors contend Brown hid his youth-model, 20-gauge shotgun hidden under a blanket when he shot Houk in the back of the head as she lay in bed that morning. She was more than 8-months pregnant with a son, who also died.
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Houk's relatives contend Brown was jealous of her unborn son, while Brown's attorneys contend investigators rushed to judgment due to related claims by Houk's family.
The shooting occurred after Brown's father, Christopher, had left for work. Authorities contend the boy then walked to a school bus with Houk's 7-year-old daughter, dropping an empty shotgun shell on the way, leaving Houk's 4-year-old daughter behind with her dead mother.
Brown has always maintained his innocence, though police contend they found no evidence pointing to anyone else, his attorneys said.
The judge will review Brown's probation every six months, defense attorney Steve Colafella told The Associated Press on Tuesday. That means Brown's probation can be extended or even ended if the judge sees fit — but it could also be revoked, meaning Brown could again be incarcerated if he misbehaves.
But, no matter what happens, the oversight will end when he's 21 because Brown was prosecuted as a juvenile, Colafella said.
Jack Houk, the dead woman's father, said the family has tired of the focus being on Brown's progress.
"It's a double-murder. He killed my daughter and a baby," Houk told the AP on Tuesday. "Every six months they have a thing to see how he's doing. It's always about how he's doing."
State prosecutors initially charged Brown as an adult — meaning he faced the potential of life in prison if convicted — but the case was returned to juvenile court after successful defense appeals.
Brown was ruled "delinquent," the juvenile court equivalent of guilty, after an April 2012 trial and remained incarcerated, subject to periodic reviews.
Colafella said Brown was released Monday because "he's just sort of run the course of all the placement and programming they can offer."
Jack Houk said that before Brown's release the juvenile had already been granted weekend passes, then attended a public school under an assumed name while living in a halfway house. Houk and the boy's attorneys confirmed he has since graduated and plans to attend college.
Defense attorneys wouldn't comment on other specifics of Brown's release or use of another name.
A Superior Court panel is considering an appeal of Hodge's refusal last year to dismiss the charges or grant a new juvenile court trial. The defense contends that police didn't rule out whether anybody else entered the house the morning Houk was shot and that Houk's older daughter gave varying accounts to police about whether she heard a gunshot.
Brown has claimed he saw a truck resembling one owned by Houk's ex-boyfriend near their home that day. Prosecutors have deemed that a red herring, saying the only muddy male footprints leading to or from the house that morning were Brown's.