NAPLES — Mental illness played a major role in the actions of Alex Crain during the slaying of his parents, one of his lawyers told reporters Thursday.
Attorney Brian Bieber said a “psychological component” contributed to the shootings of Thomas and Kelly Crain on Dec. 9, an act Alex is accused of committing. Bieber declined to elaborate, describing the affliction as a “disease” or “defect.”
“We believe the mental health aspect in this case is of epic proportion,” he said.
His statements, emphasized to reporters outside a Thursday hearing for the 14-year-old, are the strongest statements yet suggesting a motive or cause behind the slayings.
The comments may telegraph a defense for the boy. Prosecutors charged him as an adult on Wednesday with two counts of manslaughter with a firearm, charges that Bieber and co-counsel Mark Rankin say were made with Crain’s illness in mind.
The teenager was originally arrested on two counts of second-degree murder, crimes punishable by a life sentence in prison.
Thursday he appeared before a Collier County judge for a probable cause hearing, a day after moving from juvenile detention to the county jail.
Clad in an orange jumpsuit, Crain’s image was projected from a jail room onto a TV screen inside a small courthouse hearing room.
Collier County Judge Vincent Murphy agreed with prosecutor Dave Scuderi’s request for a $500,000 bond on each manslaughter count. Crain will need to post $1 million to be released from the jail. He’ll be required to forfeit his passport, if he owns one, and will have to remain in the state.
The teenager listened attentively to Murphy and spoke only once.
“I have no questions, your honor,” he said.
Bieber didn’t oppose the bond but told Murphy that he and Rankin would seek to lower it after receiving the state’s evidence in the coming weeks.
The attorney told Murphy he intends to request the trial court prohibit electronic media — video and still cameras — from the courtroom for pleadings.
“If it (went to trial), we believe the presence of the electronic media would bias the potential jury pool,” he said.
Seeking a venue outside of Collier County was another possibility, he said.
Crain’s attorneys also want a guardian ad litem appointed in the case, a volunteer assigned by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child in a legal proceeding.
Outside the courtroom, Bieber told reporters that additional evaluations of Crain may be conducted in the case. He said the teenager was an otherwise intelligent and mature child who understood the charges against him. Family members were unaware of Crain’s problem, he said.
“Not one family member had any warning that this could, would happen in any way, shape or form,” he said. “This is a complete shock....”
Collier deputies discovered the bodies of Thomas Crain, 40, and wife Kelly, 39, in the bedroom of their Golden Gate Estates home following a 911 call from the house on the morning of Dec. 9. Alex Crain is believed to have been the only other person inside the home at the time.
Crain is currently being held in a medical housing unit of the Naples Jail Center, a precaution, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Roughly a dozen of Crain’s family members arrived at the hearing room for the teenager’s brief appearance. Finding only a cramped space occupied largely by media, they waited outside.
Crain’s next appearance will be before a trial judge, who has yet to be assigned in the case.
Manslaughter with a firearm is a first-degree felony punishable by a maximum 30 years in prison. Crain is eligible for the youthful offender program, which caps incarceration at six years in a non-adult prison.