Hamilton teen charged in dad’s murder won’t be tried as adult

Hamilton teen charged in dad’s murder won’t be tried as adult

The case of a 14-year-old Hamilton girl charged with aggravated murder for allegedly shooting her father to death in February will remain in juvenile court.

The girl’s attorney, Matthew Fritsch, said he and his client were certainly “pleased” with Judge Kathleen Romans’s decision.

“With a client and a family that has had few, if any, good days we’re going to consider this one a good day,” Fritsch said after the court appearance. “It’s been a waiting game. It’s been anxious for her. I sense some relief. She is pleased to keep it here.”

On Feb. 23, the girl, then a high school freshman, picked up a 9 mm handgun, loaded it and shot her 71-year-old father, James Ponder, in the head at their Millville Avenue home, according to police and prosecutors.

No one has given a reason for the alleged shooting.

Since the girl was charged with the crime, she has been in the Butler County Juvenile Detention Center for the last 103 days. Romans’ ruling means the girl will return to the detention center and be tried as a juvenile instead of an adult.

Under Ohio law, a 14-year-old is not automatically tried as an adult when charged with serious crimes. It is considered discretionary and must be determined by the court.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser had filed a motion requesting the teen’s case be moved to adult court to put in motion all the analysis of the evaluations, he said.

He “fully accepts” Romans’ decision based off the court’s review of the information, he said.

“I trust the process in this case,” Gmoser said. “The right decision was made.”

Romans said she considered the girl’s age, her lack of a criminal history and determined she wasn’t physically and emotionally mature enough to be tried in adult court.

The judge told the girl, who sat motionless during the hearing, that this is a “very serious case” and determining whether to move it to adult court was “a serious decision.”

Fritsch said the judge’s decision was important because it means his client won’t be bound over to the Butler County Grand Jury, and she will continue receiving treatment in the juvenile court system.

The teen will have her pre-trial hearing later this month. Before then, Fritsch said he will meet with his client and prosecutors to determine whether to have a judge or jury trial.

The Journal-News is not naming the teen because she is charged as a juvenile.

There were about 10 family members of the teen in court and several were seen crying as the girl entered the courtroom.

The teen has been in the juvenile detention center for 103 days, and Romans said a report indicated the girl’s behavior has been “exemplary” and the judge urged her to continue acting that way.

Fritsch said his client has “adapted as well as can be expected” to being in the detention center for more than three months. He said by her actions she has “proven herself to the court.”

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