Town reels at 12-year-old accused of killing parents

DENVER — Ultimately, experts say, the stunned residents of the farm town on Colorado's far eastern plains will be offered a probable explanation for the slayings of a couple, allegedly by their 12-year-old son.

Resolution is another matter.

"People have a very difficult time understanding what happened," said Paul Mones, a Portland, Ore., children's rights attorney and author of the book, "'When a Child Kills."

"'There's a rhyme and reason in these cases," Mones said. "It may not be a settling one or an acceptable one."

He added, "The genesis typically is not what happened to the child that day or the day before."

Charles Long, a snack delivery driver and elder at Burlington's Evangelical Free Church, and his wife, Marilyn, director of the church's children's ministry, were found fatally shot inside their home near the Kansas state line on Tuesday. Their 12-year-old son — a volunteer greeter at the church — was in custody, facing possible first-degree murder and other charges.

Also wounded were the boy's 5-year-old sister and a 9-year-old brother. Both are expected to recover.

Prosecutor Robert Watson has declined to say what actual charges may have been filed, citing a gag order in the case. Watson said he has filed paperwork with the court in Burlington, a town of 3,700 people along I-70 about 140 miles east of Denver.

Watson had said he hadn't decided whether to prosecute the boy as an adult. The difference could mean decades in prison without parole or treatment at a juvenile facility and release in a few years.

Tom Ward, the boy's public defender, has declined to comment.

Friends and family described the boy as a good kid, more outgoing than his peers, someone who would volunteer at Evangelical Free Church and help other children with their Bible verses.