WAUWATOSA, Wis. — At the same time most Milwaukee Public Schools were letting students out for one of their first days of school, a local 11-year-old boy was practicing his coloring inside a courtroom, as he faces the possibility of prison for the rest of his life.
The boy, who is not named due to a judge’s court order to protect his identity, was in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing in the homicide of his mother. In November, Quiana Mann was killed in her basement after police say the then 10-year-old boy shot her for waking him up early and not buying him a virtual reality headset.
Tuesday afternoon, Milwaukee Police Detective Timothy Keller testified about what happened when he interviewed the boy. He says the boy’s story changed several times, from believing he was handling a confetti gun to saying the gun accidentally went off. Initially, the detective admitted, he allowed the boy to be released into the family’s care believing this was an accident.
“I wanted to believe something like that was the truth and it wouldn’t come to this,” Keller said. “Looking back at it, I may have overlooked other red flags that may have come up.”
Ultimately, the boy was taken into custody and Keller questioned him further. He says, the boy admitted to aiming the gun at his mom and intended to fire the gun near her to scare her. However, Keller says the boy’s statement didn’t make sense when he described how he was aiming.
“He indicated he had closed one of his eyes and believed he closed the wrong eye,” Keller said. “You have a different perception, depending on which eye is opened or closed with shooting. The reason [his statement] was not consistent with what happened is because, while that is accurate for something far away if I take the distance of intermediate, that’s less of a margin of error. My target is so much closer, it doesn’t move as much. Which would mean if sights are pointed at her head, and the only difference is which eye is open, it’s not going to make a difference of missing and striking her.”
Autopsy reports showed Mann was hit in her right eye.
Ultimately, the court decided to bind the boy over for trial. Because this is a 1st Degree Intentional Homicide charge, the 10-year-old boy is being charged as an adult, which is the law in Wisconsin. However, a court can decide to grant a reverse waiver which will allow the boy, who is being charged as an adult, to go through the juvenile justice system.
“The stakes are very large,” Attorney Jonathan LaVoy said. “We’re dealing with a 10-year-old boy here.”
LaVoy is not connected to this case in any capacity. He explained there are three things that need to be proven in order for the boy to be waived into the juvenile court system.
According to Wisconsin Statute 970.032, “the court shall retain jurisdiction unless the juvenile proves by a preponderance of the evidence all of the following:
(a) That, if convicted, the juvenile could not receive adequate treatment in the criminal justice system
(b) That transferring jurisdiction ot the court assigned to exercise jurisdiction under chs. 48 and 938 would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense.
(c) That retaining jurisdiction is not necessary to deter the juvenile or other juveniles from committing the violation of which the juvenile is accused under the circumstnaces specified in s. 938.183 (1) (a), (am), (ar), (b) or (c), whichever is applicable."
“That’s an uphill battle for a juvenile charged with homicide to be sent back to Children’s Court,” LaVoy said. “The law says the juvenile bears the burden of proof by preponderance of evidence.”
It’s a major decision that could impact how a 10-year-old is provided rehabilitation services. LaVoy says the juvenile system would provide a tremendous amount of resources for the boy and his family. There would be counselors and social workers available, wraparound services that could include addressing food shortage issues in the household during this process. All of this with the goal to provide a path for the child to live a productive life down the line. Otherwise, the boy will go through the adult system.
“The adult court system is much more of a warehouse,” LaVoy said. “It’s very likely that juvenile court system is going to provide a lot more benefit to this child and ultimately to the community versus just warehousing this child for the rest of his life.”
The boy’s defense team indicated they would likely seek an evaluation for a reverse waiver. The boy will be back in court for a scheduling conference on Oct. 6 at 10:00 a.m.
**Editor's note: This story has been updated the reflect that the suspect in this case is now 11 years old. He was 10 at the time of the crime but has had a birthday since.**