COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — A northern Idaho judge has closed the preliminary hearing for a 14-year-old boy charged with killing his father and younger brother.
The Spokesman-Review reports that the attorney for Eldon Gale Samuel III asked that the hearing be closed because sensitive information made public could make it difficult for Samuel to receive a fair trial and also affect his chances for rehabilitation.
Samuel is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the March 24 deaths of his father, Eldon Samuel Jr., 46, and his brother, 13-year-old Jonathan Samuel, inside a home owned by St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho.
“The court never lightly excludes the public,” 1st District Magistrate Judge Clark A. Peterson said Tuesday in announcing the decision.
Peterson said he had to consider the rights of “a very unique defendant” against the need to preserve public access. He noted that Samuel is still a juvenile even though he has been charged as an adult. Hearings for juveniles, he said, don’t share the same legal expectation for openness as hearings for adults.
No date has been set for the preliminary hearing, during which Peterson will decide if there’s enough evidence to go forward with a trial.
Peterson said he wasn’t sealing court records or future hearings in the case, as the public defender’s office had requested.
“Eldon is a 14-year-old boy. He’s been accused of patricide and fratricide,” said Jay Logsdon, a Kootenai County public defender. If the accusations are true, “he’s clearly got some psychological issues.”
According to investigators, the boy told them his father fired a pistol outside the house, then came inside, where a dispute arose between the two. Samuel said his father pushed him twice in the chest, after which Samuel took the gun and shot his father in the stomach.
He described his father crawling toward his brother’s room, and described shooting his father twice more in the cheek and once in the temple, according to authorities.
Samuel said he then used a shotgun, knife and machete to kill his brother, who was hiding under his bed, investigators said. Jonathan Samuel had cuts and wounds on his skull, arm, hand and leg, the police report said.
Logsdon contended that because the events were “a family tragedy” and not aimed at strangers, the public had less of a vested interest in getting details at a preliminary hearing.
Prosecutors argued against closing the preliminary hearing, noting the seriousness of the charges.