DEPOSIT, N.Y. – A 12-year-old upstate New York boy has been charged with shooting his 8-year-old brother to death, but authorities on Tuesday declined to reveal what was behind the gunfire.
Authorities charged the older boy as a juvenile delinquent Monday and will prosecute him in Delaware County Family Court for conduct they say would constitute second-degree murder if he were an adult. Children must be at least 13 years or older in New York to be prosecuted for murder as adults, said Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
The boys were home alone late Saturday afternoon when the older brother took a rifle from inside the house and fired a single shot, mortally wounding his younger brother, said state police Lt. Jeffrey Van Auken. The younger brother was airlifted to Wilson Regional Medical Center in Johnson City, where he later died.
The shooting was initially reported to emergency dispatchers as an accident, Van Auken said.
"As we investigated it, the circumstances changed," he said.
Van Auken declined to provide any other details about the circumstances or whether the parents faced any charges. He also wouldn't discuss the parents' whereabouts at the time of the shooting. The investigation was continuing, he said.
State police did not identify the children because of their ages, but a neighbor said the victim was Daniel Schaeffer. No one answered the telephone Tuesday at the family's house.
Delaware County District Attorney Richard Northrup Jr. was in court Tuesday and unavailable to explain the decision to prosecute. Delaware County Attorney Richard Spinney, whose office would handle the prosecution, said his office had not yet received the case and he could not comment.
Deposit is 30 miles east of Binghamton, not far from the New York-Pennsylvania state line. The family lived on a rural dead-end road.
A neighbor described the brothers as being very close and said they were home-schooled.
"It's just heartbreaking," said neighbor Edith Lobdell, who said the family had lived in the house for about a year. "They are good people. I'd see them out cutting firewood and stacking it for winter. I'd wave to them. I've never heard anyone say anything derogatory about them."
The younger brother played pee wee football, she said. Organizers wanted to cancel Sunday's game out of respect for the grieving family, but the family asked for the game to be played and dedicated to their son's memory.