The 14-year-old boy accused of killing his younger sister in their Rocklin home on July 19 will make his first court appearance Friday afternoon since prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office charged him with murder.
As of Thursday morning, the teenager, whom The Sacramento Bee is not naming because he is a minor and has not been charged as an adult, remained in custody at the El Dorado County juvenile hall in Placerville.
Friday’s status hearing will be a chance for both prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss the case before it goes to trial, said David Andrew Lowe, a prosecutor with the attorney general’s office. The trial is being handled by retired Yolo County judge Thomas Warriner.
Lowe said Thursday morning that a hearing to determine whether the teen will be tried as an adult has not yet been scheduled. Though the defendant is a minor, California law allows children who are 14 or older to be charged as adults in serious cases, such as murder. Lowe declined to provide any additional details regarding the case, including information about a possible murder weapon.
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“He’s a juvenile, and we’ve got nothing else to say,” he said.
If he is tried as a minor, the 14-year-old will be afforded protections reserved for juveniles. His court hearing will not be listed on any public court calendars and receive no public notice. Court documents related to the case will remain confidential.
If he is tried as an adult, the teen would be stripped of those protections, and could face 25 years in prison if found guilty, though he would remain in a juvenile facility until he was 25 years old. If he is found guilty as a juvenile, he could only be held until he was 25.
The Rocklin homicide case has been unusual from the start. The children’s father, Jeff Wood, was a prosecutor handling homicide cases for the Placer County District Attorney’s Office at the time of the incident.
The Placer County District Attorney’s Office announced on July 21 that it could not handle the case, citing a conflict of interest because of Wood’s employment. The case was then picked up by the office of state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“With the attorney general handling the criminal case it will allow our office to focus on giving Mr. Wood and his family the same love and support that he has given to crime victims during his 18 years of service to our county,” read a press release sent out by the Placer County District Attorney’s Office at the time.
Jeff Wood was listed in public records as a homeowner of the Monument Springs Drive home, near Interstate 80 in Rocklin, where the Rocklin Police Department said they found the body of a girl in a bedroom who appeared to have suffered blunt force trauma.
The Rocklin Police Department identified the victim as 13-year-old Ashley Wood the following day. The girl’s body was found by her mother, according to police. A woman by the name of Sonya Wood is also listed as a homeowner of the Monument Springs Drive home and appears in family photos with Jeff Wood and their three children.
Authorities would later confirm that the girl’s 14-year-old brother, who was located in a field about a mile away from the home after the incident, was the suspect taken into police custody and being held at the Placer County Juvenile Detention Center Facility in Auburn that day.
The Wood family has had almost no contact with the media since Ashley’s death.
A man who identified himself as Jeff Wood declined to talk to a Sacramento Bee reporter Thursday afternoon over the phone.
Photographs of a young, grinning Ashley Wood posted on her mother’s Facebook page show her competing in gymnastics and posing with medals wrapped around her neck. Another photograph shows Ashley Wood and the brother suspected of killing her standing next to each other on a beach, smiling.
Austin Wood, the family’s eldest son, has made a series of posts on his Facebook page dedicated to both his siblings. In one, a video shows both Austin and Ashley Wood dancing together and lip-syncing to a song while making faces at the camera. Near the end of the video, their brother joins them for a brief moment.
In another post, Austin Wood writes that he misses both of his siblings, and that he will not forget that his younger brother was a good person who “almost overcame a mental disability.”
“Something evil took him away from me, and as much as I want to hate him and for him to pay for what he’s done. ... He’s still my lil brother and I miss him just as much,” Austin Wood wrote in the post.