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Boy Charged With Killing Grandparents

December 1, 2001

CHESTER, S.C. (AP) _ A 12-year-old boy was charged Friday with killing his grandparents with a shotgun and then setting their house on fire before fleeing in their sport-utility vehicle.

The boy, whose name was not released because of his age, was charged with arson and two counts of murder, prosecutor Michael Hemlepp said.

The boy shot his grandparents in the head in a bedroom at their home Wednesday night, then set the house on fire, Chester County Deputy Bernie Culpepper said. The SUV got stuck on a dirt road about 20 miles from the home and hunters who found him contacted authorities.

Culpepper said investigators are stumped to find a motive for the slayings. ``Nothing he has told us has made any sense,″ Culpepper said.

The boy’s father, who lives near Gainesville, Fla., sent him to South Carolina about six weeks ago, police said.

The father arrived Friday to see his parents’ home, which was nearly burned to the ground, and talk to investigators.

Hemlepp said he was researching whether prosecutors can ask the court to try the boy as an adult.

South Carolina, which put a 14-year-old to death in 1944, has no minimum age for capital punishment. But a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1988 prohibited the death penalty for anyone under age 16.

Chester County, with a population of about 34,000, is one of the most rural areas in a mostly rural state. Four murders have been recorded in the county in the past two years.

``We have crime here from time to time,″ Culpepper said. ``But nothing like this.″