A Utah teen accused of attacking an elderly woman who was practicing the organ alone in a locked chapel has never been in trouble with the law before. But he could face serious penalties, after prosecutors filed a petition in juvenile court accusing him of aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and criminal mischief.
The 17-year-old boy was charged earlier this month with the crimes, though the charging documents were initially private after the teen’s defense attorney requested that the entire case to be kept secret.
Attorneys representing Utah media argued against that Friday morning, saying a blanket closure was inappropriate and juvenile courtrooms are presumed to be open if the youth is over the age of 14 and charged with what would be a felony-level offense in adult court.
Second District Judge Robert Neill sided with the media Friday and ordered that the documents be released — but found that portions of any court hearings that discussed the youth’s family history or possibility of mental health or other medical issues will be closed.
The documents released Friday allege that the youth broke a window of the Centerville church, then assaulted a 71-year-old woman who was playing the organ in a chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He allegedly choked her until she lost consciousness.
Investigators found blood on the sill beneath a broken window, and eventually used a genealogy website to trace the DNA found at the crime scene back to the youth.
It’s not clear whether prosecutors will seek to have the teen’s case moved to adult court. If it remains in the juvenile system, the teen would face a maximum potential penalty of a stay in a secure juvenile detention center until he turns 21.
If the judge moves the case to the adult system, he would face the same penalties as if he were an adult. Aggravated burglary is a first-degree felony, which carries a potential sentence of five-years-to-life at the Utah State Prison.
The youth has not been accused of any serious crimes in the past, according to a delinquency case hearing that was also released Friday.
The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify youth accused of crimes, unless they have been certified to stand trial in adult court.