New Castle News

February 20, 2014

Jordan Brown, Five Years Later: What happened — and when

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News


•Feb. 20 — A pregnant Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, is killed in the New Beaver Borough farmhouse she shared with her daughters — Jenessa, 7, and Adalynn, 4 — her fiancé, Chris Brown, and his son, Jordan.

•Feb. 21 — Jordan Brown is charged with two counts of homicide. He is only 11 years old, but state law requires he be charged as an adult.

•March 2 — Jordan is lodged in the Edmund L. Thomas Adolescent Center in Erie after spending four days in a 10-foot-square cell at the Lawrence County jail and six days at a juvenile detention center in Beaver County.

•March 24 — Ten witnesses testify for the prosecution at Jordan’s preliminary hearing before District Judge David Rishel. All charges are held for court.

•May 5 — Jordan enters a not guilty plea at a formal arraignment.

•Oct. 4 — His defense attorneys ask the court to transfer the case to the juvenile justice system.

•December — Joshua Lamancusa, the county’s newly elected district attorney, reports a possible conflict of interest — and the Pennsylvania Bar Association agrees.


•Jan. 14 — Anthony J. Krastek, Pennsylvania’s senior deputy attorney general, is named to handle the prosecution.

•Jan. 29 — Dr. Kirk Heilbrun, a forensic psychologist and expert on adolescent development, testifies at a hearing on transferring the case to the juvenile justice system. He said Jordan is amenable to rehabilitative counseling available through the juvenile system.

•March 12 — Dr. John O’Brien of Philadelphia, a forensic psychiatrist and lawyer, testifies at the continuation of the Jan. 29 hearing. He says Jordan is reluctant to take responsibility for his actions, which “complicates his ability to be rehabilitated.”

•March 18 — Amnesty International, an organization supporting human rights, shows interest in the case and concern that, if convicted, Jordan could be the youngest person in the nation sentenced to life in prison without parole.

•March 29 — Dominick Motto, Lawrence County Common Pleas Court president judge, rules Jordan’s case should not be transferred to juvenile court. He cites Heilbrun and O’Brien, who “agree that the first step towards rehabilitation is to take responsibility for the underlying offense.” Motto writes: “The court concludes it is not likely defendant can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court jurisdiction.”

•May 3 — Motto grants permission for the defense to appeal his decision.

•July 28 — The Pennsylvania Superior Court agrees to hear the appeal.

•Sept. 13 — A friend of the court brief is filed on Jordan’s behalf by five organizations and three law professors, all legal experts and advocates for the juvenile justice system. They say if he is convicted as an adult, Jordan would be the youngest person in the nation sentenced to life in prison without parole.


•Jan. 25 — The Pennsylvania Superior Court hears Lourdes Rosado, associate director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, on Jordan’s behalf and Christopher Carusone, Pennsylvania’s chief deputy attorney general, for the commonwealth.

•March 11 — The Superior Court rules 2-1 against Motto’s decision to keep the case in criminal court. The judges send the case back to Lawrence County and order reconsideration or another hearing on the possibility of transferring the case to juvenile court.

•April 20 — Houk’s daughters spend her birthday without her — for the third time.

•Aug. 5 — Motto reconsiders arguments to move the case to juvenile court.

•Aug. 23 — Motto rules Jordan — who is a week away from turning 14 — will be tried as a juvenile.

•Sept. 15 — Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge John Hodge excludes the public — including the news media — from the hearing that will determine Jordan’s guilt or innocence.

•Sept. 20 — The New Castle News and two other newspapers file petitions to intervene and open the proceedings.

•Sept. 23 — Hodge rejects news media requests.

•Sept. 26 — The newspapers appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. The court stays the proceedings, pending disposition of the appeals.

•Oct. 28 — Defense attorney Dennis Elisco petitions the juvenile court to release Jordan, saying his continued detention without an adjudicatory hearing violates the Juvenile Act. However, Hodge says he does not believe he has the authority to release Jordan.


•Jan. 10 — The newspapers’ appeal goes before the Superior Court.

•Feb. 22 — The Superior Court rules the proceedings will be kept closed.

•March 28 — The defense asks the Superior Court to release Jordan prior to the scheduling of his juvenile court hearing.

•April 3 — The Superior Court rules Hodge does have authority to release Jordan. Hodge conducts a hearing to consider that. The judge decides not to release the teen pending his hearing, which he schedules for the following week.

•April 10 — Hodge begins an adjudication hearing — the juvenile justice system’s equivalent of a trial in criminal court.

•April 13 — Hodge rules Jordan is delinquent. The delinquent determination is the juvenile system’s equivalent of a guilty verdict in criminal court.

•May 18 — Disposition, the juvenile system’s equivalent of sentencing, is announced. Jordan is to be sent to a juvenile facility in Chambersburg, Franklin County. The state’s juvenile justice system requires that youngsters being held have their case reviewed every six months.

•June 15 — The defense files notice of appeal.

•Nov. 2 — Jordan’s first six-month evaluation is conducted in Lawrence County courts. Hodge learns the Chambersburg facility does not want him. Officials there say he is not participating in counseling sessions.

•Nov. 29 — Hodge orders Jordan to be sent to George Junior Republic, a similar facility in Grove City, Mercer County.


•May 8 — The Superior Court overturns Hodge’s determination that Jordan is responsible for the deaths. The Superior Court judges say the evidence presented was not sufficient for the verdict. The case is sent back to Lawrence County.

•May 22 — The commonwealth files application to the Superior Court, challenging the decision overturning Hodge’s ruling.

•July 22 — The Superior Court denies the application for reargument.

•Aug. 21 — The state attorney general’s office asks the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the Superior Court decision overturning Hodge’s ruling on Jordan’s guilt.

•Dec. 30 — The state Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal of the superior court decision.


•Jan. 14 — The Supreme Court sets March 12 for the full seven-member panel to hear arguments in the case in Philadelphia. They will be asked to reinstate Hodge’s decision finding Jordan responsible for the deaths.

•Feb. 20 — It has been five years since Kenzie Houk and her unborn son were killed. Her daughters are now 9 and 12; Jordan is 16.