Boy denies killing father; says Chavis did it
PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- A teen-age boy accused of killing his father testified Wednesday that an adult male neighbor with whom he was emotionally involved with was the actual killer, and that he and his brother reluctantly agreed to take the blame after being coached on what to tell authorities.
Alex King, 13, and his 14-year-old brother Derek are charged with first-degree murder and arson, accused of beating to death their father, Terry King, in their home, then setting fire to the house in the small Pensacola community of Cantonment. Both are being tried as adults.
If convicted of first-degree murder, the boys face a mandatory penalty of life in prison without parole. The maximum penalty for arson is 30 years in prison.
The two boys, whom prosecutors say used a bat to kill their father, initially confessed to the crime. They later recanted their story, saying it was their friend, Ricky Chavis, 40, who slew their father.
In a rare legal move, Chavis was tried for King's murder before a different jury last week, and the verdict is under seal until the boys' trial is over. Chavis has denied killing the boys' father.
Alex King told the jury Wednesday that Chavis was the one who beat his father to death. He said he and his brother were at Chavis' home last November when the killing took place.
"[Chavis] said there had been a fight between him and my dad, and he said that my dad was dead. He said he had killed my dad to protect us," Alex said. "He said my dad never would have let us live with him [Chavis], he would never let us go. He said my dad would have killed us before he would let us go."
Wearing a light-blue dress shirt and a tie, with his hair neatly cropped, Alex showed little emotion as he spoke about his version of events.
Asked how he felt when Chavis allegedly told him the news, Alex said, "I was kind of angry that he kept saying he had done it for me."
At one point, he said, Chavis left to burn down their house with his father's remains inside. "When he came back, he said that there had been a fire, that the fire had not burned up everything."
It was then that Chavis said he couldn't go to prison and then began pressing the two boys to confess to the killing, Alex said. "He was saying that if we took the blame that we would get off on self-defense because we are juveniles," Alex said.
Asked whether he and his brother immediately agreed to take the heat, he responded, "No sir, it was some time before we agreed to take the story, to take the blame."
Chavis then coached the boys over a period of about two days as to what to tell authorities, he said. "We were talking about it almost constantly," Alex said. "He kept going over it until we got it all right."
But Alex acknowledged he smoked marijuana on the night his dad was killed, and that in the weeks before the killing he and his brother ran away from home to live with Chavis. He said he had planned to stay with Chavis until he was at least 16. He said his father did not know about the relationship with Chavis.
Alex also acknowledged telling other juveniles in the detention center that he and his brother killed their father. He also said he had not smoked marijuana on the day he confessed to police.
The prosecution also pressed Alex on whether family members, during jailhouse visits, have tried to convince the boy he was not involved, and that it was Chavis who is responsible. Alex responded, "They said something to that effect."
Earlier Wednesday, the court heard the boys' confession tapes. On one of them, Derek said he was the one he beat his father to death in his recliner.
"I made sure he was asleep. I got the bat, and I hit him over the head," Derek said. "I hit him once and I heard him moan. I was afraid that he might wake up and see us, so I just kept on hitting him -- somewhere around 10 times."
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