PITTSBURGH – A 14-year-old girl acknowledged killing her father with a 12-gauge shotgun blast to the face to end years of sexual abuse and could be on juvenile probation until she turns 21, her attorney said Thursday.
Defense attorney Patrick Nightingale said the girl accepted an offer from the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office to be adjudicated delinquent, the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty plea. She was placed on probation on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, the least serious grade of homicide in Pennsylvania, the attorney said.
"I think the DA's office has been consistently very enlightened in its approach because they know my client suffered significant trauma at the hands of her father," Nightingale said. "And I'm very happy on behalf of my client that we won't have to live through that trauma again in a trial setting."
The girl was 13 when she shot Matthew Booth Sr., 34, on July 30 in the squalid home they shared in Elizabeth Township, a rural suburb about 20 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Nightingale and the girl told authorities Booth had abused her since she was about 7.
The girl at first told police two masked men shot her father while ransacking their house, but soon after confessed to shooting him.
Allegheny County prosecutors initially charged her as an adult with criminal homicide, but agreed to move the case to juvenile court in August after District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. toured the home and described the living conditions as "incredible."
An Allegheny County Health Department report showed the home had major health code violations, including no furnace or bathroom sink, holes in walls, a leaky ceiling, and flea infestation from neglected pets, including dogs, cats and rabbits. Much of the furniture was broken and police said the home smelled of animal waste.
Zappala spokesman Mike Manko said the office cannot comment on the resolution of the case because of the girl's age and nature of the proceeding.
The girl was last known to be living in a residential treatment facility, though her once-estranged mother had been trying to get custody of her. Nightingale said he cannot say where the girl is living, but that "reunification (with her mother) is one of the goals of court supervision."
The girl will be supervised by the county's juvenile probation department, which can have jurisdiction over her until she's 21.
Prosecutors have also offered to expunge the girl's juvenile court record if she does well on supervision, Nightingale said.
Nightingale said the relatively lenient resolution was appropriate given the "totality of the circumstances."
"Yes, it's a very serious offense, but the District Attorney's Office acknowledges this little girl has suffered tremendously," Nightingale said.