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Galena, Mo.- A teenager charged with first degree murder for the January 2013 deaths of an elderly couple vacationing in Lampe has pleaded guilty to charges connected to the case.
Christopher Allen, now 18, was sentenced to ten years in prison for first-degree burglary. At today’s sentencing, prosecutor Matt Selby said Allen had the car keys of Paul and Susan Brooks in his possession when he was arrested.
No mention of the guilty plea will be allowed to be mentioned at Allen’s pending murder trial, according to the plea agreement.
Allen and Anthony Zarro had run away from the Lives Under Construction boys ranch in Lampe at the time of the couple’s murders. They were apprehended after a neighbor of the elderly couple held them at gun point after noticing suspicious behavior at the home of the Brookses son. The teens had been hiding out at a home next to where the couple, who were about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, had been vacationing.
Susan and Paul Brooks
At Friday’s proceedings defense attorney Tom Carver asked Judge Miles Sweeney for a continuance in the murder case, which is scheduled to be heard in August. Carver’s motion says Allen has yet to undergo a mental evaluation that was ordered seven months ago. It also says that depositions in the case have yet to be taken. The depositions are an important part of the case as both sides are to have their witnesses endorsed for trial by May 1st, according to Allen’s co-counsel Shane Cantin.
Another sticking point for both sides is the age of the defendants when the crime was committed. Both boys, who are charged with first-degree murder in the double homicide, were under 18 years-old when the murders were committed. The only sentences available for first-degree murder in the state of Missouri are life without the possibility of parole or death. The Supreme Court says neither option is acceptable for people under 18 charged with first-degree murder.
Carver’s motion states, “The United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama held that mandatory life imprisonment without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.”
The high court’s ruling “has spawned litigation across the country, including Missouri, seeking to clarify or refine the ruling in Miller,” Carver writes.
Carver says a case pending before the Supreme Court will address whether the ruling will be “retroactive,” and, if it is, exactly when they will back date cases to. “We’re waiting for guidance from that case that will be argued in April with a probable ruling in October,” he said.
When asked if his client suffered from any known mental issues prior to sentencing, Carver said, “not presently.” Later during motion proceedings Carver said that if Allen is deemed competent to stand trial in the mental examination they will ask that a second one be completed.
Selby said he expects to call the majority of the same witnesses in Allen’s trial as those for Zarro’s, which is slated to begin in June. He told Judge Sweeney he would share deposition’s taken in Zarro’s case with Carver and Cantin.
Anthony Zarro (courtesy SCSO)
“The outcome of that case [Zarro's] will probably determine the outcome in this case,” Carver said. He said the information in depositions he’s seen in his client’s co-defendant’s case indicate “Zarro was much more involved in this case and said he was the principal player and much more involved than my client.”
The age of the case and some of the witnesses are a concern for Selby. “Some witnesses have moved, changed employment or have health issues,” he said. “Time moving on does not help our case.”
“The Brooks family have a right to have a resolution to this matter in a timely manner,” Selby told Judge Sweeney. “It has been very stressful for them.”
“The victims’ family can take some solace in knowing that Mr. Allen isn’t walking the street,” Judge Sweeney responded.
Sweeney, who stated that it took ‘a lot of maneuvering’ to secure a courtroom in Columbia (where the case has been moved on a change of venue) and the August trial date, took the motions under advisement and is expected to rule on them in the next few weeks.