New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Kenzie Houk’s parents are devastated — again.
The first time was when she was fatally shot in February, 2009.
The second time was Wednesday, when they learned of a ruling by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
A three-judge panel overturned the decision of Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge John Hodge, who had found Jordan Brown responsible for the 26-year-old Houk’s death.
“We’re devastated,” her mother Debbie Houk said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’re very upset.”
Following a juvenile court hearing last spring, Jordan, now 15, was found to have been responsible for the deaths of Houk — his father’s fiancée — and her unborn child.
He was ordered to a juvenile facility for treatment. His case is to be reviewed every six months by the trial judge who determines whether he should continue treatment or be released. The process continues until he is released or turns 21. The next review is scheduled for June 19.
However, the appeals court’s ruling orders the case back to the county and opens the possibility of a new trial.
Kenzie Houk’s father Jack said he does not look forward to another trial and the stress it will put on his family.
Although the appeals court said the evidence presented does not support the judge’s finding, the Houks are confident the police arrested the correct person.
“All of this is so unnecessary,” Debbie Houk said, adding, “I don’t want to go through this a second time.”
She said the ruling is hurting both her family and Jordan.
“No one cares to help him,” she said. “This will only hurt him. It will not help him to get better.”
In addition to putting herself and her husband through the pain of another trial, she said, Kenzie’s 12-year-old daughter Jenessa — who was 7 at the time of the shooting — may be required to testify.
Houk, who is raising Jenessa and her 8-year-old sister, said she has not spoken with her about the case. The girls, she said, are in counseling for the loss of their mother.
“But this will require a lot more if she has to testify,” Houk said. “Everyone considers what is best for Jordan but what about the little girls? They are not considered.”
Houk said she has no reason to believe a second trial will yield a different outcome.
“Two people are dead and there is no one else,” she said. “We’ve had forensics, the best there is. I don’t doubt what they had to say. He knew what to do and he did it. There was no one else there. It is time to pay for what he did.
“I sometimes wonder about what went on. Did she feel anything? What about the baby, so close to being born, did he struggle when his oxygen was cut off?”
Houk said she wants to get on with as normal a life as possible with her granddaughters.
When the ruling came down, she said, she followed through with plans to attend a mother-daughter dinner with her mother.
“I’ll never be able to attended such a Mother’s Day dinner with my daughter Kenzie,” she said, “and her daughters will never have another Mother’s Day with their mother.
“Sometimes it seems like yesterday that she was here. I’ve filled the void in their lives but I’ll never be a mommy to them,” she said of her granddaughters.
“Their mother was taken from them and so was their grandma. I can’t enjoy them as my grandchildren if I’m the one raising them.
“I don’t ask for pity, but it’s not easy.”