Martinsville shooting: Boy guilty of reckless homicide

 September 9, 2011, last update: 9/9 @ 5:18 pm

Nathan Butler, 12, is escorted out of the Morgan County Courthouse Wednesday after his hearing for murder and reckless homicide. Photo by Julie Crothers.
MARTINSVILLE — A Morgan County judge has found 12-year-old Nathan Butler guilty of one count of reckless homicide in the June shooting death of his 6-year-old brother, Andrew Frye.
Superior Court II Judge Christopher Burnham found Butler not guilty of murder after nearly two days of testimony and about 70 exhibits. Burnham ordered Butler to be held in secure detention at the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center until a disposition hearing is held after Butler is evaluated at the Logansport Juvenile Detention Center.
The judge ruled that the state had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Butler, then 11, acted in a reckless manner when he shot his brother in the head with a .22 rifle. Burnham said the charge, if it had been committed by an adult, would have been a Class C felony, which can carry a sentence of three to eight years in prison.
The state did not, however, prove all elements in the murder charge, Burnham said, which, if committed by an adult, would have been a Class A felony with a prison sentence of 20 to 50 years.
After the verdict was read, everyone was removed from the courtroom except family members so Butler could have a few minutes with his family. His family was led out a back door of the courthouse to avoid the media. Butler was led out of the courthouse with leg shackles and a chain securing his hands. He did not speak as he was placed into the transport vehicle.
Afterward, Butler’s attorney, John Boren, said he would file an appeal of the decision. Of his client, Boren said, “He’s got no criminal intent.”
Boren previously had said it was important his client not be known as a murderer for the rest of his life.
Morgan County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Robert Cline said he felt Burnham’s verdict was just.
“The boy needs help, and by being in the juvenile system, I hope he gets that help,” Cline said.
Cline said the juvenile system is geared for rehabilitation and is not like the adult system.
Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega could not attend the hearing Friday afternoon due to a prior engagement. “It’s a difficult case for everyone. You wish there was something that could be done to bring Andrew back,” Sonnega said.
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