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Boy, 6, Suspected in Grandfather’s Death

November 10, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A 6-year-old boy suspected of shooting his grandfather to death with a .22-caliber rifle has a history of mental illness and attacking family members, authorities said.

James Zbinden, 59, was found dead at his home Friday after his grandson ran into the street and flagged down a neighbor, Cole County Sheriff John Hemeyer said.

The boy, who has not been identified, is being evaluated at a mental-health facility.

``We believe, at this time, that he killed his grandfather intentionally,″ Hemeyer said. An autopsy Saturday showed Zbinden bled to death from a single gunshot wound near his armpit.

Hemeyer said Zbinden and the boy were alone together Friday when the boy apparently found a gun that family members thought was no longer in the house. Hemeyer said it was unclear what led up to the attack. ``This is a kid who has attacked family members before with no provocation,″ Hemeyer said.

The boy had been released last Monday from a central Missouri mental-health facility where he was admitted after attacking another family member, Hemeyer said.

Past assaults have involved the boy’s younger siblings and his parents, Hemeyer said. He also said the boy has used knives during previous attacks.

Before his legal counsel halted the interview, the boy indicated to authorities that he was responsible for Zbinden’s death, Hemeyer said.

A juvenile court will handle the case.

Juvenile ``punishment does not exist in Missouri,″ Hemeyer said. ``Everything is set up for the welfare of the child. Certainly, this is one of those instances we have an extremely disturbed child who needs help badly.″

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