Plea deal for St. Johns boy could fall apart

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ST. JOHNS -- The plea deal in the case that stunned the country -- an 8-year-old St. Johns boy accused of double murder in the shooting deaths of his own father and his father's friend -- could fall apart.

The now-9-year-old was in court today with his mother to learn about his future.

After reviewing psychiatrist recommendations, the judge reportedly had planned to sentence the child to intensive in-patient therapy and remain under judicial supervision until he turns 18. Apache County, however, says it just does not have the money to pay for the extended treatment required by the plea agreement.

While some said money was the issue, the judge in the case says there's simply not a program or facility available that can accommodate the boy. Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael Roca has said several times in the course of this case that the justice system is not designed to handle so young a defendant.

The judge reportedly is considering sending the boy to the Department of Juvenile Corrections. The child's lawyer, however, said that's not the agreement, and is actually a deal-breaker.

They said that if the boy is sent to the Department of Juvenile Corrections, they will back out of the deal and ask for a new judge, possibly in a new county.

Roca has scheduled a status conference for Nov. 10, and has ordered the lawyers to talk to the Department of Juvenile Corrections to determine if there is a program for the boy.

The child was originally charged with two counts of murder in the Nov. 5 shootings. He later pleaded guilty to a single count of negligent homicide in a plea deal that did not include any jail time.

If the plea deal does collapse, the boy could once again face murder charges and possibly a trial.