Appeals court says Ogallala teen accused of murder to be tried in adult court

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OGALLALA, Neb. (KNOP) -- A Nebraska appeals court says an Ogallala teen accused of murder will stand trial in adult court. Nebraska's Court of Appeals agreed with Keith County Judge Donald Rowlands. They will not move the Amadeus Leroux's case to juvenile court.

The justice's say the seriousness of the crimes is a factor in their decision. The judges also write in a 45-page document, if 16-year-old Amadeus Leroux is convicted in juvenile court, he would spend less than three years in treatment.

In the 45-page ruling on Tuesday, the Justice's also wrote, "Although the district court found many of the statutory factors favored transferring Leroux to the juvenile court, the court weighed more heavily its concerns for public safety, namely, that the time left to treat Leroux under the juvenile court's jurisdiction would not be sufficient and the security and services at the YRTC would not be adequate for someone convicted of more serious crimes, such as the ones at issue here."

The ruling also says, "In our review of the record, we can certainly agree with Leroux that there was evidence supporting his request to transfer the case to juvenile court, and perhaps even enough to tip the scale more toward granting his transfer request. On the other hand, we can also agree with the State that the record supports the district court's decision to retain jurisdiction. And unless the evidence fails to support the district court's decision, then, as we noted at the onset of this opinion, we are constrained by our standard of review. Therefore, since the district court's basis for retaining jurisdiction over Leroux is supported by appropriate evidence, it cannot be said that the court abused its discretion in refusing to transfer the case to juvenile court."

Leroux was 15-years-old when authorities say he stabbed and killed a man in Ogallala. Leroux is charged with second-degree murder.

Right now the teen is out of jail on a million dollar bond by paying $90,075 in trust money and is living in Colorado.

Update 10/27/17:

An Ogallala teen accused of murder will stand trial in adult court.

16-year-old Amadeus Leroux was 15-years-old when authorities say he stabbed and killed John Fratis last spring.

Leroux's attorney, Maren Chaloupka, made a motion to transfer the case to juvenile court.

District Judge Donald Rowlands denied that motion Friday.

In his ruling, Judge Rowlands said he agrees that Leroux could benefit from psychotherapy and medication in a juvenile facility, but he adds the serious nature of the charges, and with the safety of the public in mind, he believes Leroux should be tried in adult court.

Judge Rowlands also ordered Leroux to make an appearance in Keith County District Court on December 8th.

Leroux is charged with second-degree murder

Charged with murder in March, Amadeus Leroux is out on a one million dollar bond and is living in Colorado with his mother.

Defense Attorney Maren Chaloupka presented a case which contradicted the prosecution's case. Chaloupka questioned about the lack of fingerprints on the knife and witness testimonies.

Chaloupka presented a motion to transfer to Juvenile Court and a Motion for bond review to Keith County District Judge Donald Rowlands.

Leroux, 16, is accused in the March 28 stabbing death of 25-year-old John Fratis. He is charged with second-degree murder and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.

Keith County Attorney Randy Fair provided witnesses which set a timeline for the case.

Nebraska State Patrol Investigator Rutherford presented a timeline of events for the early morning hours of March 28 when the stabbing death of Fratis occurred. Fratis was stabbed 6 times - once in the front side torso; 3 times in the left torso; and twice in the back. He died from deep stabs to vital organs - once to the left lung, and twice to the heart.

Investigator Rutherford explained that Raylynn Garcia, 28, and Larry Derrera, 32, and their two small children, lived at 914 North Spruce, Ogallala, along with Fratis, 25, in Ogallala. While there was no biological relationship, the individuals considered themselves "family."

Garcia brought Leroux to Ogallala to visit, even though it broke the rules of leaving the state without permission of Leroux's Colorado probation for a 3rd degree misdemeanor charge for obstructing a peace officer.

While Garcia did not drink due to a medical condition, the other individuals in the house drank alcohol and smoked marijuana.

Sometime after 2 a.m., wrestling and quarreling ensued in the home. According to affidavits, Derrera broke up arguments several times throughout the night between Fratis and Leroux.

Garcia who was said to be "fed up" with the commotion loaded her children and planned to leave the home. According to Garcia she saw the knife and put it in the sink. Derrera found a wounded Fratis and took him to the front porch where a driver going by called for help at 8:15 a.m. The driver was dentist, Dr. Rezac of Ogallala.

Leroux left the home through the back door and was eventually picked up by Fabian Flores of Ogallala. Flores left Leroux at a gas station, where surveillance was eventually taken, and Leroux was identified. Leroux made a phone call to his mother from the store, coordinating Garcia to pick him up and return him to Colorado.

Surveillance cameras put Garcia in Sterling, Colorado where Leroux was reunited with his mother.

Chaloupka crossed-examined Investigator Rutherford, confirming that Derrera still smelled like alcohol when he was questioned by police on the morning of Frats' death, and that Leroux and his mother have never been interviewed.

Chaloupka also confirmed by Investigator Rutherford that by Derrera and Garcia had been charged with child abuse in their actions from the night Fratis died, and that both had been caught lying multiple times.

Concerning the murder weapon, Investigator Rutherford could not remember if the knife had been "rinsed" or not.

Amber Pierce, District 11 Probation Juvenile Specialist, gave testimony concerning different methods of placement if Leroux is found guilty of the charges facing him. She said he would initially automatically be placed at the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility for juveniles charged and convicted as adults (aged 14-21). When asked if all programs for rehabilitation were available to all inmates, so that they all have the opportunity to participate, Pierce said, "I don't know."

Tess Frederick of the Dever Boys and Girls Club was the defendant's first witness. She testified that she had worked with Leroux and his family since he was 8 years old. "He was always in the learning center or the gym with his older brother and sisters. If his brother was in an activity, then so was he." She said he was never aggressive or forceful.

"He is so quiet - always present, active and engaged, but a spectator.. She described that on a trip to a homeless shelter he got upset because he was scared of dogs where he was working. She said he was always socially appropriate and age appropriate. Now that he is out on bail, he still attends the club, spending time in the peace and quiet of the teen room.

Dr. Joseph Peraino, Clinical Psychologist, of Denver diagnosed Leroux with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and PTSD. He explained that trauma, such as Leroux has experienced in his life "hurts brain development, and had a negative impact - emotionally and psychologically."

While Dr. Peraino did not question Leroux about his involvement in the death of Fratis, he did perform a number of tests - Academic, emotional, general personality, maturity levels, intelligence levels, processing information, psychological needs, and risk assessment.

Leroux experienced a lot of childhood trauma. He was attacked by dogs, was in a car accident, experienced the loss of two uncles who died via suicide, and saw the video of his father being shot and killed in a hostage situation. His IQ is 86 which is below average, and he tested low on processing speed and verbal comprehension. But his academic testing was significantly higher than his IQ, indicating that he "learns well," said Dr. Peraino.

Dr. Peraino is concerned about potential vulnerability for Leroux. "He doesn't stand up for himself. He is willing to accept help and guidance." He said he needs appropriate treatment for PSTD. His concerns if Leroux is placed in a correctional facility are that he will be vulnerable to learning things inappropriate or too mature which will not be good for his adult development.

Attorney Jenifer Stinson of Stinson & Pagett, LLC of Denver, Colorado has represented Leroux and his family for the past two years in different situations, including Leroux's probation case. She discussed the many treatment options available for Leroux if he could be transferred to Colorado.

Leroux is now home with his mother on a one million dollar bond. He is attending school on-line and attending activities and quiet time at the Boys and Girls Club. "He is very obviously a kid," said Stinson, "He has been through a lot with regards to this case. He has a hard time processing his feelings. He needs access to the help he needs."

Stinson said, "I just want the court to consider what type of treatment is going to be most beneficial to the defendant. It is only fair for the court to know there are other options."

District Court Judge Donald Rowlands is taking the motions under advisement. Both attorneys will submit a brief to the court by Monday, October 23. Judge Rowlands will be granting or denying the motion to transfer to juvenile court. If he does not grant the motion a non-status hearing will be set for November.

On the Motion for Bond Review Chaloupka said that Leroux is living in Denver, and that he has cooperated and complied with officials. It was stated that he needs the money to fund his defense, and that if monies could be released, at least in part, that it would be released to the attorneys - not to the family.

District Judge Donald Rowlands said that he appreciates the need for funds, and recognized that Leroux has continued to appear in court.

A decision will be presented by District Judge Donald Rowlands by October 28.