Judge asked to dismiss charges or give boy, then 11, new juvenile court trial in 2009 slaying



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NEW CASTLE, Pennsylvania — Attorneys for a boy who was just 11 when he was charged with fatally shooting his father's pregnant fiancee asked a judge on Thursday to dismiss those charges or, at least, grant him a new juvenile court trial.

Jordan Brown's defense attorneys said both sides were asked to file written arguments before the judge issues a final ruling in a few weeks and that they expect a favorable ruling.

"I think the trial court has, at a minimum, no choice but to give us a new trial," defense attorney Steve Colafella said. "We feel strongly there was just not enough evidence to convict him beyond reasonable doubt and are confident of an acquittal."

State prosecutors did not immediately comment following the closed hearing in Lawrence County.

The state Supreme Court in December raised questions about the evidence used to convict Brown in juvenile court for the February 2009 shotgun killing of 26-year-old Kenzie Houk and her unborn son.

State police and prosecutors have repeatedly said none of the evidence points to anyone but Brown, who is now 17.

The defense contends the investigation amounted to a rush to judgment against the boy, fueled in part by Houk's family. They have told investigators and reporters that the boy was spoiled by his father and jealous of Houk and her unborn child who, they contend, was going to be given Jordan's room in his father's farmhouse in Wampum, about 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Prosecutors contend Brown approached Houk with his youth-model 20-gauge shotgun hidden under a blanket then shot her in the back of the head as she lay in bed. She was more than 8 months pregnant with a son, who also died.

Brown's father had left for work and Houk's two daughters, ages 7 and 4, were the only others in the house when she was shot, prosecutors said.

An empty shotgun shell was found on the long driveway between the house and the road, where Brown walked before a school bus picked him up that morning, and police said they found gunshot residue on his clothes and no male footprints leading to or from the house except for Brown's.

But Colafella said pictures from the scene show a "muddy mess" outside the house that doesn't clearly show what footprints were and were not there and that police did not thoroughly canvass four entrances to the home to see whether someone else could have come in.

The defense also said Brown frequently shot his gun and that gun powder residue found on his clothes that day could have come from a winter jacket he had also worn during a turkey shoot days earlier.

Police have said Houk's ex-boyfriend was eliminated as a suspect by their investigation, but the Supreme Court noted defense arguments that Jordan saw a truck resembling the man's near the house that morning. Colafella also said Houk's 7-year-old daughter first told police she didn't hear anything unusual that morning, only to later recall hearing a loud bang after additional questioning.

Houk's body was found after the 4-year-old went outside to tell men hired to cut trees that she thought her mother was dead, police said.

Jack Houk, the dead woman's father, did not immediately return a call seeking comment after the hearing.

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