An 11-year-old Pennsylvania boy accused of killing his father's pregnant girlfriend last week reportedly used his own youth model shotgun, a smaller-size gun designed specifically for children.
Jordan Brown has been charged as an adult with two counts of criminal homicide in the deaths of 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk and her unborn child. Houk was eight months pregnant with Brown's father's child, and also had two daughters, 7 and 4, who lived with her and the Browns.
Police said Brown went downstairs from his bedroom with the gun hidden in a blanket, shot Houk in the head while she lay in bed, then took the bus to school. Brown is being held in the Lawrence County jail, though he is segregated from the adult prisoners. He has not entered a formal plea.
"It's tragic because a woman lost her life. The baby lost her life and you have an 11-year-old that's well on track to spending the rest of his life in jail," said Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo.
Brown got the youth-size shotgun as a Christmas present and used it to win a turkey shoot on Valentine's Day, police said.
The 20-gauge shotgun was a gift from the boy's father, Chris Brown, according to Bongivengo. Brown was training his son to be a hunter, the New York Daily News reported. Houk had also encouraged Brown to buy the boy his own gun, according to the Daily News.
Youth model guns are generally shorter and lighter than regular rifles or shotguns and have lighter recoil, making them easier for children to use. Dozens of gun manufacturers offer both rifles and shotguns aimed at the youth market.
Gun Control Activist 'Outraged' by Youth Model Guns
Though not uncommon, the guns have been the target of criticism from some gun control activists, who say that children may not understand the danger of such weapons.
"To specifically market a gun designed for a kid is outrageous," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control group. "To have a gun specially designed for junior, we're talking about a lethal weapon here, you're not talking about a toy anymore."
Pennsylvania State Trooper Ronald Kesten said police don't encounter the smaller guns very frequently and said they have not been a problem.
Bongivengo also said it was not uncommon for boys Brown's age to have their own shotgun, though he said the gun should have been locked up and inaccessible.
The gun was kept in a place to which the boy had full access, according to authorities.
Gun Safety Instructor: Nothing Wrong With Youth Model Guns
Graham Luck, who teaches a youth firearms safety course in Minnesota, said youth guns can be safer than regular guns, which can be too heavy for some smaller children. "The heavy guns can get away from them," he said.
"There's nothing wrong with firearms that fit young people," he added. "Kids need to be familiar with any kind of firearms. If he finds a gun in the house, it doesn't matter what kind it is."
Luck said children under 14 should not have access to the guns without parental permission and supervision.
The boy's attorney, Dennis Elisco, said he plans to ask the court to transfer the case to juvenile court and to transfer Brown to a juvenile facility, according to the AP.
"Jordan's holding up. He's a tough little kid. He's holding up well," Elisco told "Good Morning America."
Bongivengo said he was unable to file the homicide charges against the boy in juvenile court and had not decided whether he would oppose a motion to transfer the case to juvenile court.
"On the nature of the crime itself, I would say I would be opposed. But I'm not going to take a hard line stance," he said. "I want to gather all the information possible and make the best possible decision. I'm not out to persecute him."
Houk's family and friends said Houk had had problems with the boy in the past. Prosecutors said Jordan had been the center of attention in his father's life until Houk moved in.
Family members told "Good Morning America" that Jordan had threatened to "pop" Houk and her daughters in the past.
"There was an issue with jealousy. He told my son stuff," Houk's brother-in-law, Jason Kraner, told the Associated Press. "He actually told my son that he wanted to do that to her."
Houk's 7-year-old daughter is now a key witness in the case. Prosecutors said the girl said Jordan came downstairs early Friday morning holding two guns.
When she asked what he was doing, Jordan allegedly ran back upstairs, then returned with a shotgun under a blanket, according to prosecutors. State police found Houk's body in bed after her 4-year-old daughter told tree cutters on the property that she thought her mother was dead.
"The operating theory is that he covered the gun with the blanket to hide it when he came downstairs" from his bedroom to shoot Houk, who was in a first-floor bedroom, Bongivengo said. "It wasn't used to muffle (the shot) or anything, the blanket wasn't thick enough for that."
Deborah Houk, Kenzie's mother, said, "I lost my grandson, and my daughter and my two little babies lost their mother. Nothing could ever be so horrible."