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Judge finds Riverside boy responsible for killing neo-Nazi father

January 14, 2013 |  9:48 am

A Riverside County judge on Monday found a 12-year-old boy guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting and killing of his father, neo-Nazi activist Jeffrey Hall, as he slept on the family’s living room couch.

He also was found guilty of a weapons charge, with the judge determining he knew right from wrong.

The youngster, just 10 years old when he pulled the trigger in May 2011, was charged as a juvenile and can be held in custody only until he is 23.

A separate hearing will be held to determine whether the boy should be sent to a juvenile detention center run by the state Department of Corrections, sent to an alternative treatment facility or placed on probation.

Testimony and evidence in the case, which began in October, revolved around the boy's upbringing and a family life steeped in the hatred and violence of the neo-Nazi movement, with psychologists focusing on whether those circumstances altered his capacity to realize that killing his father was wrong.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Soccio argued that the boy plotted to kill his father because of fears that the father was about to divorce the boy's stepmother and break up the family. Soccio presented evidence that the boy expressed remorse hours after the shooting.

Public Defender Matthew Hardy focused on the boy's abusive home life, where gunplay and neo-Nazi gatherings were commonplace. Witnesses testified that Hall beat his son repeatedly, often in drunken or drug-addled rages.

Social workers responded to the Hall household more than 20 times. At the time of the shooting, the boy was a dependent of the court, an effort designed in part to shield him from further abuse, Hardy said.

Clinical psychologist Anna Salter, a mental health expert called by the prosecution, testified that the boy's birth mother used heroin, LSD and other drugs while she was pregnant, which she called
"devastating" to the boy's development. The boy also has an extensive history of violence dating to when he was 3. In school, he once tried to strangle a teacher with a telephone cord, she said.

Hall and his first wife divorced shortly after the boy was born. Hall won full custody when the boy was 3.

The Times is not identifying the boy because of his age.

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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

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