Teen Suspect in Murder Will Likely Be Tried as Adult

Karen Ertell
Karen Ertell
Brook Hart
Brook Hart

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The 15-year-old boy arrested for the murder of his neighbor will likely be tried as an adult. That comes from one prominent local defense lawyer, after reviewing some of the facts reported so far.

"There's a high likelihood in this case based on what I learned about the facts," said attorney Brook Hart.

Honolulu police call this a "very planned and well executed killing," and prosecutors say they are going to recommend this case be tried in circuit court, rather than family court.

Police detectives are back at the Ewa Beach home of 51-year old Karen Ertell. They found her body here Friday, after she was strangled. They suspect a 15-year old neighbor is the killer, and they want to try him as an adult.

"It's rare," said Hart.

State law allows prosecutors to try minors as adults in murder cases, regardless of the suspect's age. The difference is substantial.

"In the juvenile court, he could be sentenced to four years," said Hart. "If he's treated as an adult, then he could be sentenced to second degree murder -- a life term with parole."

There is an exception.

"A substantial showing that the killing was the result of mental disease, defect or disorder," said Hart.

That does not include a pattern of crime.

Neighbors believe the 15-year old boy broke into several homes in the area. And Ertell was supposed to testify against him for trying to steal her car.

"I think this is going to be a difficult case, whichever forum is chosen," said Hart.

Besides the murder charge, the teen also faces charges for robbery, burglary, and auto theft.