Fort Worth

17-year-old suspects in string of Fort Worth armed robberies will be tried as adults

A 17-year-old boy listened dispassionately on Friday while the judge announced that he deserved to be tried in the adult court system instead of remaining in the juvenile court system, where the best interest of the child is an important factor.

Bond was set at $10,000 by state District Judge Alex Kim. The juvenile has the right to appeal his certification as an adult, Kim said.

“I don’t think I can provide adequate services for you through the juvenile justice system,” Kim said.

The 17-year-old, who is not being identified because he was a juvenile when the robberies were committed, is accused of helping with as many a nine armed robberies in Fort Worth convenience stores in September.

Evidence was presented during the hearing that the boy has an IQ of 72, barely functional intellectually. The suspect arrived in the United States on Sept. 14, 2012, by way of Thailand after his family left a Malaysian refugee camp. The father of the suspect testified that the family originally escaped from Myanmar in 2000.

Kalere Coleman, the juvenile suspect’s attorney, argued that even though her client admitted to having possession of one of two guns that were recovered in this case, he should be tried as a juvenile.

“In this case, our system is best served by rehabilitation, not retribution,” Coleman said.

The juvenile suspect admitted to keeping the 9 mm handgun, according to Daniel Copeland, a Fort Worth police detective who testified during the adult certification hearing. Copeland said the other gun recovered by police was a BB gun.

During the last of these nine robberies, which was reported on Sept. 23, a store clerk was shot, but it was an adult who is suspected of shooting him, Copeland said.

“He was in the hospital when I tried to interview him,” Copeland said. “He was shot in the stomach and the bullet didn’t come out. It ricocheted. He was in bad shape.”

Copeland testified that investigators determined four juveniles between 13 and 17, and one adult, were involved in the string of robberies. The 13-year-old suspect cannot be tried as an adult.

The suspects followed nearly the same pattern in all nine of the robberies, Copeland said. One person, usually the youngest of the accused, would open the door and two of the others would approach the store clerk and at least one of the suspects would threaten the employees with a gun.

The suspects would then steal the store’s cash, steal the clerk’s jewelry, steal tobacco products from the store and whatever else they wanted, then run away after stuffing the money and the merchandise into their backpacks, Copeland said.

The car they used in the robbery was typically parked off-site to make it more difficult to identify, according to Copeland’s testimony. The suspects often wore hoodies, gloves, masks or masked their faces with bandanas to help them escape detection, Copeland said.

Another 17-year-old suspect was certified as an adult earlier this week, according to Tim Bednarz, Tarrant County prosecutor.

The case of a third juvenile suspect connected with this investigation, who admitted to his role during the robberies, was disposed of, or adjudicated, Coleman said.

The terms of the disposition of his case are unavailable because the suspect was also a juvenile at the time the robberies were committed, according to an officer of the court.

The adult suspect, Aaron Jarrell Singleton, 25, faces 14 counts of aggravated robbery, according to court records. Trials in those cases are pending, court records show.

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