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Boy, 8, facing murder charges appears before judge

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  • NEW: Lawyers, judge discuss mental health evaluation in first hearing
  • Attorney: There is a "good likelihood" boy was improperly questioned
  • Lawyer says so far nobody has stepped up to take custody of boy
  • Police say boy confessed to shooting father, father's friend with .22-caliber weapon
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(CNN) -- An 8-year-old boy appeared in court Monday afternoon in St. Johns, Arizona, on charges that he murdered his father and another man.

The judge and attorneys discussed preliminary issues, including conducting a mental health evaluation of the boy and possible visitation options for his mother, said court administrator Betty Smith.

The next hearing was scheduled for November 19.

A gag order preventing those involved in the case from speaking about it was left in place.

More than 600 mourners attended services for the father, Vincent Romero, 29, Monday morning, CNN affiliate KPHO-TV reported.

Tim Romans, 39, also was found dead Wednesday afternoon in Romero's home, where he rented a room, KPHO said.

Police said Thursday that the boy had confessed to shooting the two men with a .22-caliber weapon. No motive was given.

"We solved the crime," St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick told KPHO. "Now we have to solve the mystery of why."

Ron Wood, one of the boy's public defenders, said before the gag order was issued that the defense is treating the boy's case "like any other first-degree murder case."

"Our position is that our responsibility -- our duty -- is to take care of [him], whatever the allegations," Wood said. "He is an 8-year-old boy; he is a third-grader.... He's frightened."

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  • KPHO:  Judge issues gag order

The boy's other attorney, Ben Brewer, told KPHO he questions whether police acted properly in their interviews with the boy.

"Their evidence is very minimal," Brewer said. "There was overreaching with police with regard to their contact with him ... I think there's a very good likelihood that there could have been improper interview techniques done."

"It's evident that he's shaken up, and he's scared," Brewer told KPHO. "He was yanked out of the comfortable situation, a situation he knew about, and put into a situation that he has no knowledge about. He's hurting.

"He's a scared little kid," Brewer said.

Brewer also told KPHO prosecutors were "just guessing" when it came to physical evidence in the case.

On the "Today" show, Melnick said there were no indications the boy had been in trouble before.

"There's no record of any problems in school, no reported abuse," he said.

Wood indicated to KPHO that he, too, had not heard any assertions the boy had been abused, despite media assertions that abuse could be related to a motive in the case.

"At this point in time, we haven't seen anything indicating abuse," Wood said. "We haven't heard of anything; we're not aware of anything."

Meanwhile, the boy remains in custody at a juvenile detention facility, where he is attending school.

"Every effort is being made to see that he's comfortable," Smith said.

On Monday Wood said that so far, nobody had stepped up to take custody of the boy.

"We've got an 8-year-old client who is sitting in a detention facility who needs someone to take him home, and we haven't found that person," Wood told KPHO. "The stepmother didn't want to take custody of him. His mother hasn't taken custody of him.

"At this point in time, no one has come forward and indicated they're willing to take [him]."

The boy's lawyers said they plan to file a motion to request experts to help with the investigation and will ask for access to the crime scene.

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The funeral for Romans is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday in his hometown of San Carlos, Arizona, KPHO said. A wake will be held at 3 p.m. Friday.

St. Johns has a population of about 4,000 residents and is situated about 170 miles northeast of Phoenix, near the New Mexico border.

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