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Boy, 14, charged as adult in clothes-dryer murder of 4-year-old

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Under California law, a 14-year-old is not eligible for the death penalty or life without parole
  • If found guilty, the boy could receive no more than 32 years to life plus 15 years
  • Raul Renato Castro was charged with murder, sodomy, kidnapping
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(CNN) -- A 14-year-old suspect in the murder of a 4-year-old boy found drowned and then stuffed into a clothes dryer in Mendota, California, has been charged as an adult, authorities said Tuesday.

Fresno County, California, District Attorney Elizabeth A. Egan said Raul Renato Castro was charged with special circumstances, including murder during a child molestation, sodomy, kidnapping and murder of a witness to prevent testimony.

Castro faces separate felony charges of kidnapping, sodomy and child molestation, Egan said.

Under California law, a 14-year-old is not eligible for the death penalty or a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, according to a statement from Egan's office. If found guilty, the boy could receive no more than 32 years to life plus 15 years.

The incident began Friday afternoon, when Alex Christopher Mercato's parents discovered that the child, who had been playing outside their house, was missing, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told reporters Monday.

The parents called police, who began to search the neighborhood and nearby parks in Mendota, 33 miles west of Fresno, she said. Soon, the FBI was called in.

On Saturday, authorities resumed the search door-to-door. They did not have to go far. In the house next door to the Mercatos, authorities discovered the boy's body stuffed inside a dryer in a closet, Mims said. An autopsy determined he had drowned.

The teenager, who had been the only member of his family who was at home on Friday afternoon, was arrested and booked into the juvenile justice center, Mims said.

Castro is the sole suspect in the case, she said. He is to be arraigned Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court.

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