WAMPUM, Pa. – Fifth-grader Jordan Brown boarded the bus and headed to school like he did most other mornings in this rural western Pennsylvania community.
But before he left home on Friday, authorities say, the 11-year-old boy had shot his father's pregnant fiancee in the back of the head as she lay in bed. He then put his youth model 20-gauge shotgun back in his room before going out to catch his bus, police say.
Brown was charged Saturday as an adult in the death of 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk, who was eight months pregnant, Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo said. Houk's fetus died within minutes due to a lack of oxygen, Lawrence County Coroner Russell Noga said.
Houk's family and friends, who gathered at her parents' house Saturday night, told The Associated Press that there had been past problems with the boy.
"He actually told my son that he wanted to do that to her," said Houk's brother-in-law, Jason Kraner. "There was an issue with jealousy."
Pennsylvania State Police found Houk's body in the rented farmhouse after her 4-year-old daughter told tree cutters on the property she thought her mother was dead, Bongivengo said.
The boy told police there was a black truck on the property that morning — possibly the man who feeds the cows — sending investigators to follow a false lead for about five hours, Bongivengo said. Inconsistencies in Brown's description of the truck led police to re-interview Houk's 7-year-old daughter, who implicated the boy in the killing, Bongivengo said. State troopers went to get the boy at school.
"She didn't actually eyewitness the shooting. She saw him with what she believed to be a shotgun and heard a loud bang," Bongivengo said. The gun was found in a "location we believe to be in the defendant's bedroom."
Brown was arraigned and was being held in the Lawrence County Jail, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday.
"An 11-year-old kid — what would give him the motive to shoot someone?" said Houk's father, Jack Houk. "Maybe he was just jealous of my daughter and the baby and thought he would be overpowered."
Defense attorney Dennis Elisco said he plans to ask Monday for the boy to be released on bail and for the case to moved to juvenile court. Elisco and police said they had no clear motive for the shooting.
Elisco said he is waiting to see physical evidence that ties his young client to the killing.
"I don't think he knows what's going on," he said. "I walked out of there thinking he was innocent. I believe Jordan did not do this."
The boy's father, Christopher Brown, is "a mess" and had no indication his son had a problem with Houk, Elisco said.
"He's in a state of actual shock and disbelief," he said.
The shotgun used is designed for children and has a shorter arm and such weapons do not have to be registered, Bongivengo said. Jack Houk, 57, said the boy and his father used to practice shooting behind their farmhouse, and the two enjoyed going hunting together.
Wampum is about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.