ST. JOHNS, Ariz. – An 8-year-old boy accused of killing his father and another man in eastern Arizona will be allowed to spend Thanksgiving with his mother, a move that drew criticism from the family of the second victim.
The boy and his mother, Eryn Thomas, sat beside each other in court Wednesday in St. Johns, often leaning over and whispering into one another's ear. The boy, wearing a navy blue shirt and pants, was free from the cuffs he wore in a previous hearing.
Judge Michael Roca agreed to allow the boy to leave juvenile detention from noon on Nov. 26 until noon on Nov. 28. Prosecutor Brad Carlyon objected, citing concerns about the safety of the public.
Defense attorney Ronald Wood said the boy is not doing well and has trouble sleeping in detention. He said it was important that the boy "have somebody to talk to."
Although the boy is allowed time to visit with his mother, stepmother, a grandmother and an aunt, Wood said that time is limited.
The judge said that if the boy doesn't return to detention on time, arrest warrants will be issued for him and his mother. Roca ordered that there be no guns or knives in the home while the boy is free and that the boy not be allowed to play video games or watch TV.
"Let's see how it works," Roca said.
The boy has been charged in juvenile court with two counts of murder in the Nov. 5 shootings of his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and Timothy Romans, 39, a co-worker who was renting a room.
A friend of Romans', John Andreas, said outside court that Romans' wife, Tanya, and her family were upset that the boy will be let out for Thanksgiving.
"The family is very distressed. They don't get Tim back, they don't get Vinnie back. But this boy gets to go home, as their lawyers put it, get to have gravy, turkey, and do whatnot," Andreas said.
St. Johns police Chief Roy Melnick has said he would push for the boy to be tried as an adult. Prosecutors have 15 days to decide if that's the route they want to take.
Roca also granted a defense motion to provide counseling services for the boy. Anything discussed between the boy and the counselor would not be admissible in court, the judge said.
Thomas left the courthouse without commenting to reporters. She lives in Mississippi but said Wednesday in court that she is staying in St. Johns.
Until his arrest, the boy was living with his father and stepmother, who were married in September. Romero had primary custody of the 8-year-old.
Police have said the boy confessed and a police video released Tuesday shows the boy telling two investigators that he fired at least two shots at each of the men. But he also gave conflicting reports of his actions that day.
A defense attorney, Benjamin Brewer, has said police overreached in their questioning of the boy, who was not represented by a family member or lawyer during the interview.
Authorities and the defense attorneys have been unable to answer questions about the case since the court issued a gag order. Attorneys for the media argued Wednesday that the gag order is overly broad and asked that it be lifted. Roca denied that request and placed limits on some public records, ordering that written transcripts be substituted for audio and video recordings.
A status conference in the case has been scheduled for Dec. 8.