A 10-year-old girl is arrested in connection with the death of a six-month-old baby in Chippewa County back in October.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is taking over the case. Due to the seriousness of the offense, the case currently sits in adult court but could later be moved into juvenile court. Given the girl’s age, her name will not be released at this time.
“The child hit its head on the footstool and then the child started crying and she panicked and didn’t know what to do and didn’t want to get into trouble and then she proceeded to stomp on the 6 month-old’s head,” Wade Newell, Chippewa County District Attorney said during the girl’s first court appearance.
The infant, six-month-old Jaxon Hunter died from his injuries on Nov. 1. The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department says the 10-year-old girl later confessed. She faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide.
“Normally juvenile court has jurisdiction over anyone from the age of 10 through the last moment before they turn 18…however there are 3 exceptions in which the individual child ends up having the case held in adult criminal court rather than juvenile court,” said Harry Hertel, local defense attorney.
Those three exceptions include first-degree reckless homicide, second-degree intentional homicide and first-degree intentional homicide.
Hertel says the legal process for a child offender in a case like this has a lot of moving parts.
“A person who is in that situation can go through reverse waiver. That’s the idea that they can be sent back to juvenile court,” he said.
Hertel, who has represented several child offenders facing homicide charges throughout his career, says the juvenile system provides several advantages for the offender even if the punishment involved incarceration.
“It would provide for a child to be placed in a facility where they’re not going to be exposed to adult perpetrators who have been convicted and sentenced,” he said.
The juvenile system also provides more community resources. Case records have been sealed by a Chippewa County Court judge and lawyers for the girl are seeking a competency hearing.
“If there are mental health issues or simply because of her youth, she doesn’t understand what a judge or a jury does or what role the lawyers have its quite possible she would be found to be incompetent, either because of that lack of knowledge or mental health issues,” said Hertel.
Due to state ethics obligations for prosecutors, the Wisconsin Department of Justice confirms it has over the case but says it can’t further comment at this time.
The 10-year-old is due back in court in January.