King Brothers' Mom On Boys' Guilty Pleas

P E N S A C O L A, Fla., Nov. 15, 2002 -- Derek King, 14, and Alex King, 13, admitted beating their father to death with a baseball bat before setting their home on fire as part of a plea agreement Thursday, but the boys' mother says her children don't have a clue about what's about to happen.

After Thursday's plea, Derek was sentenced to eight years in prison, while Alex received seven years.

Their mother, Kelly Marino, who did not live with the family at the time of the killings, says the brothers don't understand how their lives are about to change.

Visions of Playgrounds

"They think they're going to a playground, they really do," Marino said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "They think they're going to be with other children, they're going to have fun," she said.

The boys admitted to third-degree murder and arson charges after the judge threw out second-degree murder convictions against them and ordered the King brothers' case into mediation.

Circuit Judge Frank Bell took the unusual step of ordering mediation in part because of contradictory trials. Both the boys and a family friend, Rick Chavis, had been tried for the crime before separate juries.

Prosecutors presented evidence at one trial that Chavis, a convicted child molester, was the killer and argued before another jury that the boys committed the murder. Chavis was acquitted, but the boys were convicted.

The victim, 40-year-old Terry King, was bludgeoned to death with an aluminum baseball bat as he slept in a recliner at his home in Cantonment, Fla., on Nov. 26, 2001. The house was then set on fire.

Bell read the boys' confession Thursday, which said: "Alex suggested I kill my dad. I murdered my dad with an aluminum baseball bat. I set the house on fire from my dad's bedroom … the first story we told police was partially true the rest was changed to protect Rick [Chavis] … Rick started talking about what we should say to the police. He told us to say we killed our dad because he abused us. That was not true."

Until Thursday's plea, the boys had been facing 22 years to life without parole in the slaying, as well as up to 30 years in prison for arson, though a judge could have sentenced them to less than the minimum.

Jurors later said they believed that Chavis, 41, wielded the bat. They said they still found the King boys guilty of second-degree murder without a weapon because they admitted letting Chavis into the house.

Marino's attorney, Jayne Weintraub, who was hired by Rosie O'Donnell after the star took an interest in the case, says she's concerned the boys won't get proper counseling that will prepare them for their release from jail when they are adults.

"There was nothing done to see what was in the best of the children," Weintraub said. "They're not competent to understand what's going on," she said.

Prosecutor David Rimmer says Marino should take a lot of the blame for the boys' legal troubles.

"They wouldn't be going to the state pen if she'd paid more attention to them when they were in their playpen," Rimmer said.

A Mother’s Regret

Marino says she has a lot of regrets looking back, but she says she tried to be a good mother to her children, even after they were put in foster care when they were 5 and 6 years old.

"I was there and I love my children dearly," Marino said. "They said we upset their lives when they're in foster care. We had a wonderful, supposedly, setup and we were told that our visits would upset their routine," she said.

Although it's impossible to undo the acquittal of Chavis, he still faces molestation charges for allegedly engaging in underage sex with Alex.

James Stokes, Alex's attorney, says Chavis is responsible for the boys' fate.

"I'll say it till I die," Stokes said. "That but for Ricky Chavis, Terry King would still be alive," he said.