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Police: 8 youths confess in Milwaukee death

Charlie Young Jr. in November 2000

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MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Eight of the 12 youths accused of beating a handyman to death with bats, shovels, a tree limb and a baby stroller have confessed to taking part in the crime, Milwaukee police said Wednesday.

All 12 are in custody; four other youths are being sought in the case.

Police Chief Arthur Jones said police are recommending the state charge most if not all of the 16, who range in age from 10 to 18, with first-degree intentional homicide. The district attorney has not yet decided on whether to try them as adults.

The handyman, Charlie Young Jr., 36, died of his injuries Tuesday night. He had been in critical condition since he was assaulted Sunday night.

The beating happened in a northside neighborhood around 11 p.m. Sunday after a 10-year-old boy was encouraged by a friend to throw an egg at Young, who was walking by, and hit him in the shoulder, Jones said.

Young grabbed the boy's 14-year-old friend and punched him in the mouth, knocking out a tooth, Jones said.

Authorities said another boy then hit Young over the head with a baby stroller. The 14-year-old called for more help and more than a dozen other youths -- all male -- began chasing Young, authorities said.

The group caught him on the porch of a nearby house where they beat him with baseball bats, shovels, broom handles, a tree limb, a folding chair, a plastic milk crate and a rake, Jones said.

According to a 40-page police report, the 10-year-old told police he hit Young four times with a two-foot long tree limb -- twice in the back and twice on the legs.

Another assailant said he hit the victim four times with the metal end of the shovel while Young was lying on his side -- striking the back of his head, his chest, back and legs -- while one of his companions was stomping on his head, the police report said.

"It's a peer pressure thing," Jones said. "It's a, 'Come on, let's go do this,' and they got involved in it. And I certainly believe that they knew what they were doing was wrong."

Some of the boys told police that Young pulled a knife at one point during the assault, but one investigator told CNN Wednesday no such weapon was recovered and police do not believe those accounts.

The beating was so severe that blood was spattered onto the high porch ceiling. Young tried to get in the door of the home, Jones said, but the boys pulled him back and beat him again.

"It was unhuman -- unhuman what they did," said the victim's brother, Keith Young. "All I can say is, if they had any kind of heart about how they would want their family or brother treated, they wouldn't have [done] that."

This is the house on 21st Lane in Milwaukee where Young was beaten to death Sunday night.

City Alderman Fred Gordon said the attack spotlights the lack of security in the neighborhood.

"Obviously, police presence in the neighborhood has to be upgraded and escalated so that people can clearly understand that that kind of activity won't be tolerated," Gordon said.

Jones called Young a victim of random violence and said the beating was not gang-related, though the Johnsons Park neighborhood where it happened is known as a high-crime area. Several of the suspects are members of different gangs, Jones said.

Gordon described the neighborhood as "depressed."

"There are a lot of vacant houses, boarded-up houses and vacant lots," he said. "A lot of kids are unsupervised a lot of the time. That is one of the major factors contributing to this situation."

Said Jones: "Obviously, when you have a 10-year-old out and engaged in this type of conduct, and then 13- and 14- and 15-year-olds, there is some parental responsibility that has not been taken care of and that's clear. It's clear to me."

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