He looked like a typical 11-year-old. He could have been waiting his turn in a spelling bee.
But the setting was not a classroom. It was a courtroom, and the middle-schooler sat shackled at the ankles.
He wouldn't leave that way.
A Jackson County Family Court judge dismissed a murder charge filed against the boy in the shooting death of his father. David Paul Champ, 52, a rough-talking scrap dealer, was shot and killed Aug. 2 in a ramshackle house the two shared in Independence, Mo.
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Afterward, police sat the boy on a sidewalk step in front of the house. Tears ran down his face.
On Friday in court, Jackson County Juvenile Officer Mary Marquez, who asked the judge to drop the charges, said the boy clearly had been severely and chronically neglected and he believed he "had no choice" when he shot his father. She did not elaborate.
Marquez told Judge Marco A. Roldan that she knew her motion to dismiss the murder charge was unusual.
"We usually ask you to adjudicate charges against a juvenile," Marquez said.
But this case was special, and her request had the support of every official in the courtroom as well as the Champ family, several of whom were present.
Roldan said he wasn't about to question such universal wisdom and ordered that the charge be dismissed.
The boy, one of the youngest ever to face a murder charge in Jackson County, did not react.
Neighbors said despite the turmoil in the home, the boy loved his dad. He was about to start middle school when the shooting happened.
The boy's attorney, Megan Roth, commended the family court for looking beyond the shooting to family dysfunction and conditions within the home.