Prosecutors to treat Eliason as adultPublished 10:12am Tuesday, March 9, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Fourteen-year-old Dakotah Eliason, appearing before Judge Scott Schofield via satellite, seemed aware but emotionless as he was informed he would face charges of murder in the shooting death of his paternal grandfather, Jesse Miles, early Sunday morning.
But Eliason’s parents, Steven Eliason and Mary Apfel, were obviously distraught over the arraignment of their son. Both said they had heard on television he would be tried as an adult.
Being advised of his rights, Schofield told Eliason, “you are being charged with murder,” as well as felony possession of a firearm, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The maximum penalty for murder is life in prison.
Schofield said Eliason would receive a court-appointed attorney and set bond at $100,000.
Michigan State Police report they received a 911 call at approximately 3 a.m. Sunday of a shooting at the Miles’ home at 3120 Niles-Buchanan Rd. in Niles Township.
According to the prosecutor’s office, police found Miles with an apparent gunshot wound to the head. Miles was transported to the St. Joseph County Medical Center in South Bend, where he later died.
The prosecutor’s office said Eliason was arrested at the scene and housed at the Berrien County Juvenile Center.
According to the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office, charges had been filed under statutory provisions permitting automatic waiver into adult criminal court.
Asked what contributed to the decision to try Eliason as an adult, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sepic said he couldn’t specify.
“It’s a variety of different factors that contribute to that,” Sepic said. He added, “It’s certainly a decision that isn’t made lightly and isn’t made simply because it’s a terrible crime.”
In the 1980s, Sepic said the procedure that surrounded whether to charge a juvenile as an adult consisted of two opportunities in which a judge could make that decision.
“The (family court) judge could decide if it’s more appropriate which court the juvenile is dealt with in,” Sepic said, the “front end of the case,” or the decision could be made “with the adult judge at sentencing,” considered the back end of that case, meaning that judge could treat the individual as a juvenile when it came to his or her sentence.
It was the late 90s, Sepic said, when “they took that back end away from the judge on life maxes.”
Which means that “once we decided to start this case in adult court there is no decision a judge will make along the way that will take that case back out of adult court,” Sepic said.
“We have not used this particular procedure. I don’t know that I could count one or two of these,” he said. “We’ve usually used the traditional waiver, where the family probate judge makes that call on the front end. I don’t know how this is going to play out.”
Steven Eliason said he could not understand how it was so quickly decided to try his son as an adult or why he hadn’t been informed by any authorities and had to find out the news on television.
“My son has never been in trouble for anything in his life,” he said.
A pre-exam conference was scheduled for Friday morning and a preliminary exam was set for Tuesday, March 16.