NAPLES — More than a year after Thomas and Kelly Crain were shot to death in their Golden Gate Estates home, the teenage son accused of killing them could learn his fate in 2012.
So could two other teenagers accused of killing people in the three separate, high-profile cases in Collier County.
Alex Crain, now 15, is charged as an adult with two counts of manslaughter in his parents' December 2010 shooting deaths. Crain, who attended Palmetto Ridge High School, is due back in court on April 23, when his trial is set to begin.
For now, Crain is held in the juvenile section of the adult Collier County jail in Naples. Alone in a cell, he passes his teenage years in 30-minute intervals when family members and friends come to visit, sometimes twice a day.
Jorge Saavedra, 15, is awaiting a judge's ruling on whether his charge will stand. He is accused in juvenile court of stabbing to death a fellow Palmetto Ridge High School student, Dylan Nuno, 16, at a bus stop in January 2011. A judge is to rule by mid-January on Saavedra's claim of self-defense.
Also awaiting trial is Jonathan Rowles, now 14, arrested in the shooting death of his mother.
Though there are three high-profile homicide cases involving juveniles in Collier, the state is seeing a decline in such cases.
Across Florida, according to the state Department of Law Enforcement, so far this year there have been 24 juveniles accused of murder in slayings — 23 boys and one girl. Five boys also have been accused of manslaughter.
This is a stark drop from 2010, when 66 juveniles were accused of murder in the death of someone — 62 boys and four girls. Also in 2010, eight boys were accused of manslaughter. In 2009, 69 juveniles were accused of murder — all boys — and 11 were accused of manslaughter — nine boys and two girls.
Though Crain, Saavedra and Rowles are part of statewide statistics, they also are young boys with family members who stand by their side at each court hearing and through every step in the case.
Nancy Ward, the mother of Crain's deceased mother, visits her grandson twice a week at the jail and also is his new legal guardian.
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His attorney, Brian Bieber, isn't only preparing for trial but also is awaiting a response from an appellate court regarding Crain being evaluated by a psychotherapist of his choosing on a weekly basis. Collier Circuit Judge Frederick Hardt denied the motion in September, resulting in an appeal.
According to an Oct. 25 jail report, Crain was huddled in the corner of his cell in the fetal position "looking as if he had been crying." When a guard asked how he was doing, the teen responded: "I'm scared."
"I know about the incident. It's directly related to the significant emotional trauma he's experiencing on a daily basis — the trauma of his parents being deceased," Bieber said.
He wouldn't elaborate, saying to do so would be "professionally irresponsible."
Crain didn't appear to have any mental health issues before the death of his parents, Bieber said.
Crain was seen by a therapist when he was in the juvenile detention center, but for the nearly nine months he has been in the adult jail, he's no longer received treatment.
For Saavedra, the new year could mean a fresh start if Collier Circuit Judge Lauren Brodie determines the teen was defending himself when he stabbed Nuno, who later died from the wounds. Saavendra's attorney, Donald Day, has called on Florida's "stand your ground" law that allows for the use of deadly force if the person believes "that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm or imminent commission of a forcible felony."
After a two-day hearing earlier this month, Brodie said she would rule by Jan. 17.
If she rules in Day's favor, the teen could be going home to the Miami area in time for his birthday on Jan. 29. If the judge sides with the prosecution, a trial date would be set. Because his case is in juvenile court, if convicted he would age out of the juvenile court system for release by age 22.
Rowles, who was 13 at the time of the 2010 killing, also is charged in juvenile court. Collier County sheriff's deputies originally deemed his mother's shooting death an accident. By September 2010, the East Naples boy was charged with manslaughter of Kelly Ann Rowles, 39.
A Sheriff's Office investigation determined Rowles was responsible for the Aug. 22, 2010, shooting death of his mother inside their residence.
"What I can tell you is he was charged with manslaughter, because he was negligent with the weapon that resulted in his mother's death," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michelle Batten has said of the decision to charge him.
Justin Barger, the local public defender who handles juvenile cases, wasn't available for comment. But at a Dec. 2 hearing with Brodie, the next hearing tentatively was scheduled for Feb. 14. A trial date hasn't been set yet.