Latest from juvenile hearing on death of Breese teen punched at party
A Clinton County teen was in juvenile court with a dozen family members Thursday afternoon in the case involving the death of another teen at a weekend party.
The 17-year-old appeared before the judge in an orange jail uniform, tall, clean-cut and with an athletic build. He remained composed as the judge informed him that he has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
When asked if he understood the charges against him, the boy said, “Yes, your honor.”
Associate Judge Ericka Sanders, citing the seriousness of the offense, ordered that the juvenile remain in custody for now. The judge also ordered that his name not be disclosed.
The teen’s mother told the judge she could supervise him at home, but the judge declined her request.
The teen was placed in custody shortly after the death of Jacob J. Arter, an 18-year-old football player a month away from graduation. The 17-year-old has been held at a juvenile detention center since being taken into custody.
A hearing will be held next week to determine if the juvenile should have an opportunity to be released on bail. Meantime, a probation officer will conduct a review of the juvenile’s home situation, and make a recommendation to the court.
The juvenile’s attorney, C.J. Baricevic, of Belleville, asked that the juvenile be released while the case is pending.
“He’s not a danger to himself, he’s not a danger to others and there is no danger of flight,” Baricevic said.
He’s not a danger to himself, he’s not a danger to others and there is no danger of flight.
C.J. Baricevic, defense attorney
Special prosecutor David Rands argued that the juvenile should remain in custody.
“This does not change the fact that this is a very serious offense and that a child lost his life,” Rands said.
This does not change the fact that this is a very serious offense and that a child lost his life.
David Rands, prosecutor
Arter was the victim of a battery early Sunday during a teen party at a clubhouse in rural Germantown, according to Sheriff Doug Maue. Arter was later pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese.
The prosecutor called Sheriff’s Detective Scott Voss to the stand.
Voss said he was called to St. Joseph’s Hospital around 2:30 a.m. A sheriff’s sergeant told Voss there had been an “altercation” at the clubhouse at approximately 12:30 a.m. involving the juvenile and Arter.
The two had reportedly argued once before at around 11 p.m. on the same night, according to Voss. In that argument, witnesses told Voss, the juvenile took a knife out of Arter’s pocket and threw it. The juvenile later told Voss at the sheriff’s department he feared for his own safety.
The boy was located at his father’s home after the party, then taken to the sheriff’s department, Voss said.
At around 12:30 a.m., the juvenile walked up to Arter, Voss said. The juvenile and Arter had a brief conversation, and then the juvenile punched Arter’s head, according to Voss’ testimony.
Some witnesses said Arter did not hit back and said he did not want to fight, Voss said, though witness accounts differed. Voss said the sheriff’s department interviewed 19 witnesses and has an additional 15 witnesses yet to interview.
One account indicates Arter was punched in the head only once, Voss said. Others said the juvenile struck Arter multiple times after he fell to the ground.
Arter arrived at the hospital at 1:35 a.m. He was pronounced dead at 2:24 a.m.
A forensic pathologist said Arter died of blunt-force trauma to the head, the detective testified. The pathologist told Voss the punch could have severed a vertebral artery, which runs along the spinal column, Voss said. The blunt force and subsequent whiplash could have severed the artery, Voss said, citing the pathologist.
A college student at the party has said Arter was on the ground about 10 minutes when she learned about him. She said other teens didn’t seem to know what to do to help Arter.
The college student, Kaylie Smothers, of Breese, took Arter to the hospital in her car. Another passenger in the car tried to perform CPR on Arter. Smothers said an emergency room nurse tried giving him CPR, and they tried to shock him with a defibrillator, but Arter couldn’t be resuscitated.
The juvenile’s attorney asked the detective how many other times he has responded to fights involving punches. The detective said he had responded to about 50 others in his 13-year career at the sheriff’s department.
Baricevic asked how many of those resulted in death.
“None resulted in homicide,” the detective said.
Baricevic argued the accused juvenile did not have a knife or weapon and had not previously showed aggression toward others. He had not skipped school or tried to run away from home, the juvenile’s mother said.
The boy attended an alternative school because of poor grades, his mother testified, but not for behavioral issues. She did call police to their home on one occasion because she “did not know what to do at the time.” Police spoke with the juvenile at that time, but no charges were filed. Police were also called in regard to the juvenile on a separate occasion, but that instance did not result in charges either.
Because of the previous police calls, Rands argued, the boy should remain in custody. Rands, an appellate prosecutor, was appointed to serve as the special prosecutor in the case at the request of Clinton County State’s Attorney John Hudspeth, who has said he is a relative of the juvenile’s family.
But Baricevic argued the boy only threw one punch at Arter, and while the death was an “unbelievable tragedy,” he said the boy should be released from police custody.
The boy’s mother began to cry when the judge announced the decision to keep him in custody.
Before he was led away, he smiled briefly toward his mother.
There didn’t appear to be any family members of Arter in the courtroom. His funeral was Thursday morning.