A 13-year-old boy who prosecutors say was playing with toy trucks and planes right before he shot and killed his parents was sentenced to seven years in juvenile detention on Wednesday after pleading guilty to murder.
The boy was 12 in March, when prosecutors say he shot Marilyn and Charles Long with a .357 Magnum revolver in Burlington, a small farming community east of Denver.
He also pleaded guilty to attempt to commit first-degree murder and three counts of assault for attacking two of his younger siblings.
He could have faced decades in prison if he had been tried and convicted an adult.
The light sentence angered some relatives, but District Attorney Bob Watson said state law forced him to choose between what he saw as an unacceptably light juvenile sentence and an unnecessarily harsh lifetime sentence.
Watson told a judge there was no explanation for the slayings and showed photographs of the family’s backyard, where he said the boy had been playing with toy trucks and planes minutes before the shootings.
He said tests showed that he was immature.
“If you’re looking for an adult explanation for why this kid went from playing in dirt to commit murder, you’ll never get one. This lies in the mind of a very immature 12-year-old,” Watson said.
Charles Long’s brother, Wally Long, said he was never in favor of a plea agreement.
“My desire for a longer sentence was never about hatred or anger, but out of a sense of justice,” he said.
Marilyn Long, 50, home-schooled her kids and ran the children’s ministry at the Evangelical Free Church.
Charles Long, 51, served as a church elder and was a snack delivery driver.
The boy, who has not been identified because he is a juvenile, was a greeter at the church and helped other children memorize Bible verses.
Court documents allege the boy stabbed and shot his nine-year-old brother and hurt his five-year-old sister with a knife.
Both recovered from their wounds.