A 14-year-old Rocklin boy accused of killing his little sister made a brief appearance in Sacramento Superior Court on Tuesday as his case was delayed until next month.
Wearing a purple sweatshirt, the boy was accompanied by two Placer County officers. None of his family members attended the hearing. Thomas Leupp, an Auburn-based private attorney appointed by Placer County to represent the teen, recused himself from the case at the morning hearing before Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Arguelles, citing a conflict. Arguelles appointed criminal defender Kevin Adamson of Sacramento to replace Leupp.
The Placer County District Attorney’s Office also has opted out of prosecuting the case, since the boy’s father is a longtime district attorney in the office who handles homicide cases. Deputy state attorneys general Michael A. Canzoneri and David A. Lowe are prosecuting the case instead.
Arguelles set the next hearing in the case for Jan. 27 to give the new attorney time to review evidence. In the meantime, the youth, who is not being named because he’s a juvenile, is being held in the juvenile detention facility in El Dorado County.
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His sister, Ashley Wood, 13, died July 19 in her Rocklin home as a result of blunt force trauma, police said. Her mother, Sonya Wood, found the girl dead in her bedroom in the family’s large home in a new subdivision, police said. Ashley’s 14-year-old brother, who is not being named because he’s a juvenile, was found in a field about a mile away.
The children’s father, Jeff Wood, was a senior prosecutor in the Placer County District Attorney’s Office at the time of the killing. For that reason, the District Attorney’s Office said it could not handle the case, citing a conflict of interest. Then-State Attorney General Kamala Harris assumed control of the investigation, and the case will be tried in Sacramento Superior Court.
“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.
Authorities would later confirm that the girl’s 14-year-old brother 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 avoided contact with the media since Ashley’s death.
Photographs of a young, grinning Ashley Wood posted on her mother’s Facebook page show her competing in gymnastics and posing with medals 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.