New Castle News

May 19, 2012

Judge rules Jordan Brown must go to a juvenile facility in Kenzie Houk slaying

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — After 1,173 days in an Erie holding facility, Jordan Brown is headed to a juvenile facility for counseling and treatment.

Lawrence County Judge John W. Hodge made that decision regarding the 14-year-old yesterday. Because his case is now in the juvenile justice system, the disposition hearing — the equivalent of a sentencing — was closed and the boy’s placement will not be made public.

Under juvenile law, children found to be delinquent — the equivalent of guilty — are ordered to treatment rather than jail time. Jordan’s case will be reviewed every six months. He could be recommended for release when he has satisfactorily completed his treatment plan or he could remain in custody until his 21st birthday — Aug. 30, 2018.

Last month, after three days of testimony, Hodge ruled Jordan to be responsible for the death of his father’s fiancée, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26.

Houk, who was eight months pregnant, and her unborn son died after she was shot in the head on Feb. 20, 2009, in the New Beaver farmhouse she shared with Jordan, his father, Chris Brown, and her daughters, Jenessa and Adalynn.

Jordan was 11 years old at the time.



PLANS TO APPEAL

Defense attorneys Dennis Elisco and Stephen Colafella said yesterday they will appeal the conviction. They will request an outright acquittal or a new trial.

“We don’t believe that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to convict him,” Elisco said.

Within 30 days, he said, the defense team will notify the Lawrence County prothonotary’s office and court records will be sent to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Within 10 days of that, Elisco said, the superior court will notify him by letter to determine if the appeal will be by brief, by a five-minute argument, or by a full 15 minutes before the court.

“Due to the nature of the case, we will want the full 15 minutes,” Elisco said, adding he anticipates arguing the case in early January.

As for Jordan, Elisco said he is holding up. “He’s depressed and anxious. This is a lot for him to grasp. But he trusts us.”



DELAYS BEMOANED

Prosecutor Anthony Krastek, senior deputy attorney general, said Hodge selected Jordan’s treatment program following the recommendation of Lawrence County Juvenile Probation Department officials who had reviewed available programs.

Krastek said he is not allowed to say where Jordan is going, but expects he will be transferred soon.

“He will now be getting help.”

Noting the prosecution had offered that option when he took over in January 2010, Krastek said, “That is what makes this such a tragedy. It’s been a long process.”

Krastek said the prosecution has pushed “to meet the best interests of the child and get (Jordan) into treatment. That has always been offered ... but it was rejected.”



FAMILY REACTION

During the hearing, Houk’s mother, Debbie Houk, and sister, Jennifer Kraner, spoke. Her father, Jack Houk, did not.

Debbie Houk — crying and clinging to a friend as she left the courthouse — was too emotional to discuss her statement. “I told him what we lost,” was all she could say.

Jack Houk noted family members were told not to discuss the proceedings, but told reporters, “My wife cries every day and never misses a day at the cemetery.”

His family “did not cut Jordan down, like they thought we would. We said what we lost and want him to know.”

He said he is glad Jordan will receive help, adding two representatives of the facility where the boy was assigned addressed the judge.

However, Houk said, he would have preferred for the case to have remained in criminal court.

“Then he would have been tried and, if found guilty, would have spent the rest of his life in jail. I don’t believe that five or six years will be enough time for this young man — enough to help him.

“They said only two out of 10 don’t succeed. They said most come out with an education — they get married, have kids and a good life. But they can only keep him until he’s 21. Right now, I doubt that he’ll leave before that.”

Houk also said he would have liked to hear Jordan admit what he had done.

“We’re raising Kenzie’s girls,” he said, “If not for them, (life) would be harder.”

He added his younger granddaughter, now 7, also wrote a letter to Hodge, but it was not read in court.

“Our life has been a nightmare,” Kraner said. “The family has suffered and (this) has changed our lives. We pray that he will get help.”

Kraner said she addressed her remarks to Jordan. “I asked, ‘How could you do what you did? What were you thinking?’ ” she said, adding, “All joy has gone from the family.”

She said Jordan remained expressionless and offered no statement.

“Now we cry a lot, the situation is horrible,” she said. “Two lives were lost.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)