Prosecutors Say Teen Inspired By TV Reports of Another Slaying
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) _ Was a Boy Scout a cold-blooded killer inspired by TV reports of another slaying when he shot his parents to death, or did ``insanity pull the trigger?″
The dueling depictions of 17-year-old Jeffrey Howorth emerged in opening statements Monday, with both sides acknowledging he pumped 14 rifle shots into his parents in March and fled in his mother’s car.
``This was not madness, it was murder,″ prosecutor Doug Reichley told jurors.
Prosecutors contended Howorth got the idea from watching news reports of a killing three days earlier and 10 miles away, in which two teen-age brothers killed their parents and a brother using knives and weight-lifting bars.
Seeing reports about those slayings ``was a liberating act for Jeffrey Howorth,″ said Reichley, who later read jurors a rambling note the boy left behind referring to the killings.
``Those kids ... were cool,″ the note read. ``They killed their parents. I would be rough if I did that.″
Defense lawyer Dennis Charles said his client was nothing like the brothers in the TV reports: avowed neo-Nazis who tattooed ``Berzerker″ and ``Sieg Heil″ on their foreheads and went to white power meetings.
Howorth, he said, was ``a quiet and obedient boy,″ a church-going, varsity swimmer who _ unknown to anyone _ was a manic-depressive. The attorney said the boy should be acquitted by reason of insanity.
``Jeffrey Howorth held the .22-caliber rifle that killed his parents,″ Charles said. ``But insanity pulled the trigger.″
George and Susan Howorth were shot as they returned separately from work. The bodies were found by the couple’s 20-year-old son, Stephen, a student at Pennsylvania State University.
Charles said his client was unable to take the pressure of living up to the expectations set up by his high-achieving older brother.
Stephen Howorth testified that the shootings came the day after his brother learned that he had scored a disappointing 790 out of a possible 1,600 points on his Scholastic Aptitude Test.
Howorth’s attorney said the teen was ``pushed over the edge″ when he failed a Spanish exam in school on the day of the shootings.
``Do you kill your mother and father over a failed Spanish test if you’re sane?″ Charles asked the jury.
Howorth is being tried as an adult and faces an automatic life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder. Prosecutors elected not to seek the death penalty.
The teen was arrested two days after the slayings, when his mother’s car broke down along a Missouri road.
When he was confronted by a state trooper, he told the officer he ``was having some problems,″ Reichley said.
The officer suggested things might get better once he got home and talked to his parents.
``Well, I guess you didn’t hear,″ Reichley said Howorth replied. ``I killed my parents. I guess I shouldn’t have. But I did.″