EUREKA, Ill. (AP) — A 9-year-old boy charged in a central Illinois fire that killed five people, including family members, will be evaluated by a child trauma expert to determine if he’s fit to stand trial.
The boy’s attorney, Peter Dluski, sought the expert to see if the child understood the charges and the consequences, among other things, according to The Chicago Tribune.
“Based on my interaction and conversations with (the boy), as well as his age, I have a bona fide doubt as to his fitness to stand trial,” Dluski wrote in a Woodford County filing this month.
The next court date is in February.
The child was charged with murder and arson in an April mobile home fire in Goodfield that killed four relatives and his mother’s boyfriend. The relatives were his two half-siblings, a cousin and his great-grandmother.
The boy and his mother survived the fire. The Associated Press is not naming the mother or the fire victims so as not to identify the child.
Dluski said he intends to keep the child out of court as much as possible. At an October hearing, the boy said he understood the charges, but not all the words used to explain them.
His mother has said he suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder.
Charging such a young child is rare, but not unprecedented.
Earlier this year, a Michigan judge dismissed a murder charge against a 9-year-old accused of fatally shooting his mother in their home near Sturgis. The judge ruled that, under Michigan law, the boy was presumed incompetent for trial because he wasn’t yet 10.
Juvenile justice experts have criticized charging the Illinois boy in the first place.
The boy is staying with his father’s relatives. A suspect younger than 10 cannot be detained under state law.
His mother has since lost custody of him and state officials are trying to determine in a separate protective custody case if his father can care for him.