A St. Clair County judge on Thursday ordered that a 9-year-old boy charged with first-degree murder in connection with the beating death of a 14-month-old boy be placed in the custody of the state Department of Human Services.
The judge also ordered that a psychiatric evaluation be performed on the boy.
In court Thursday, the 9-year-old sat quietly and looked straight ahead as prosecution and defense lawyers argued about what to with him: Whether he should undergo a psychiatric evaluation now or later, whether he should remain with relatives or be placed in custody of the state Department of Human Services, and whether he should be allowed to go to school.
The 9-year-old is charged with the Aug. 22 beating death of toddler Taquan Willis, in a home in Cahokia.
Associate Judge Walter C. Brandon ordered the juvenile be placed in the custody of DHS, and an evaluation be conducted on the boy by a psychiatrist from Alton Mental Health Center. The evaluation was to take place Thursday at the courthouse.
Brandon scheduled another hearing for 10 a.m. Nov. 28, to review the findings from the evaluation and determine what happens next in the case.
Bill Walker, representing the juvenile, asked the judge to appoint a guardian ad litem for the boy and to postpone the hearing until Jan. 15.
"We have a right to present this case to the court, to prepare it for court before the court proceeds," Walker argued.
He also argued that there are no mental-health issues with the boy.
"The issue here is maturity," Walker told the judge, adding that there were less-restrictive alternatives available for the boy, rather than locking him up.
According to Walker, the 9-year-old's mother died when he was 3, and his grandmother died when he was 4. The boy has not been to school since the death of the toddler, Walker said, and sending him to school would help him. The boy hasn't been to school because the judge had previously ordered that he not be allowed around other children.
Walker noted that other adults in the boy's life have been charged with child-endangerment in connection with the case, and they're now incarcerated. But Walker noted there were other relatives in court Thursday for the boy.
Assistant State's Attorney Anna Young asked the judge to put the boy in the custody of DHS "and get him some treatment and placement." Young noted that Brandon ruled Oct. 25 that the boy is mentally unfit to stand trial and probably won't become fit within a year.
Young did not object to a guardian being appointed for the boy. The judge named Michael Rousseau as the guardian.
Brandon also ordered the prosecution to make a hotline report to the state about the case and "get somebody out here to get services to this minor."
Young told the judge the psychiatric evaluation could take place Thursday, and she made a call to check on the availability of the psychiatrist. He was to be at the courthouse by noon. Young told Brandon she would keep the court and Walker apprised of the boy's status.
At the close of the hearing, the boy hugged one of his relatives who was in the courtroom and had a brief conversation with the relative.
Records suggest the boy is the youngest person in Illinois to be charged with first-degree murder. The boy will not stand trial as an adult because of his age.
Prosecutors on Wednesday filed the child-endangerment charges against the adults:
* The toddler's mother, Alisha E. Johnson, 22, of 414 Levin Drive, Cahokia, was charged with five counts of endangering the life of a child.
* Melissa A. Wilbourn, 31, of 234 Judith Lane, Cahokia, and David J. Hollis, 42, of 310 Isabell, Cahokia, where the child's death occurred, also were each charged with five counts of endangering the life of a child.
The charges allege the adults allowed the 14-month-old child to be left unsupervised in the home with four other children younger than 12.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.