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Judge to consider whether Collin County teen accused of killing mom should be tried as adult

Lawyers for the child, who was 15 when his mother was killed Jan. 3, say the juvenile-justice system can give him treatment and ensure he is not a threat to society. But prosecutors argue the child is beyond rehabilitation.

A Collin County judge will consider this week whether a boy who is accused of fatally beating and choking his mother earlier this year should face trial in adult criminal court.

Lawyers for the child, who was 15 when his mother was killed Jan. 3, say the juvenile-justice system can provide treatment and ensure he is not a threat to society.

But prosecutors argue the child is beyond rehabilitation and say the “horrific and brutal” nature of the killing of Stacy Barney — who was beaten repeatedly with a hammer — demand that he stand trial as an adult.

State District Judge Cynthia McCrann Wheless said she would make a determination by Oct. 4. The Dallas Morning News does not typically identify children accused of crimes unless they are certified to stand trial as adults.

During two days of testimony, witnesses including McKinney police officers, psychologists and the child’s court-appointed guardian testified about the killing, which was captured by the Barneys’ home-surveillance system, and the child’s past, which included stints in residential treatment facilities and juvenile jails throughout his life, suicide attempts and allegations that he was sexually abused by an educator.

“We have an entire system that has been looked at and developed and continues to develop over many, many years that contemplates we need a juvenile system when children get into adult problems,” the child’s attorney, April Steele, said Tuesday. “Kiddos who have done some tough, horrific, terrible things can still be rehabilitated.”

The child has displayed violent tendencies since he was 5, according to testimony. His parents installed cameras throughout the house to keep an eye on the child, and moved knives that were throughout the home in their bedroom.

The child’s mother wrote in a journal when he was 7 that she feared he would kill his parents and two siblings, according to testimony.

The night Barney was killed, the boy’s parents told him he would be placed in another treatment facility in Montana.

The camera system recorded the child going to the family’s garage and getting a screwdriver and hammer. He approached his mother, who was sitting on a couch in the living room, and told her he loved her before striking her on the head with the hammer. Stacy Barney, 50, was pronounced dead at the home.

Authorities say the child also tried attacking his father, Craig Barney.

First Assistant District Attorney Bill Wirskye said the footage — which the judge viewed privately and was not shown in the courtroom — showed levels of maturity, sophistication and premeditation that were not child-like.

“This is exactly the type of case, exactly the type of defendant, with exactly the type of track record or problem, that should be moved into the adult system,” Wirskye said. “... It’s hard to top this one.”

Krista M. Torralva, Staff writer. Krista Torralva first joined The Dallas Morning News as an intern on the business desk in 2013. She returned to The Morning News in 2021 as a reporter covering primarily Dallas County criminal courts. Krista graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a major in journalism and a minor in criminal justice.

krista.torralva@dallasnews.com @KMTorralva
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