CLINTON, Iowa — A judge has ruled that a 14-year-old boy charged in connection with the death of an infant Delmar girl is competent to stand trial, at least in juvenile court.
Shawn Kiger is charged with child endangerment resulting in the death of a child in connection with the death of 13-month-old Arryana Clark, who died Nov. 22 of head injuries.
Arryana was the daughter of Marvin and Jessica Barnhart-Clark, who lived in a farm building that had been renovated into an apartment on the rural Delmar farm of Jessica’s parents, Noel and Nancy Barnhart, who were Kiger’s foster parents. Investigators believe Arryana was left in Kiger’s care Nov. 22 when she suffered the injuries that led to her death.
Calling the question of whether Kiger is competent to stand trial “exceedingly close,” Clinton County District Judge Gary McKenrick ruled Wednesday that Kiger, with the assistance of his attorney, Jack Wolfe, and his court-appointed guardian ad litem, could contribute to his own defense in the context of a juvenile proceeding. He added that the question of whether Kiger could aid in his own defense during a criminal proceeding in adult court was not currently before the court.
“The child’s limitations occasioned by his immaturity certainly would be important considerations for the juvenile court in conjunction with a determination of whether to waive jurisdiction in this action to the district court,” McKenrick wrote.
First Assistant Clinton County Attorney Ross Barlow said a hearing will be scheduled to determine whether Kiger should be tried as a juvenile, as an adult or as a youthful offender. If Kiger is tried as an adult, he would face up to 50 years in prison if convicted. If he is tried and convicted as a youthful offender, he would be held in the juvenile detention system until he is 18 years old, and then a hearing would be held to determine whether he should spend additional time in an adult detention facility before being released.
If Kiger is convicted in juvenile court, he would have to be released from custody when he turns 18. Kiger turns 15 on Saturday.
Kiger has been in foster care since 2004. During a May 17 hearing, a social worker assigned to Kiger testified that he had a history of being hospitalized for mental issues. Kiger has been evaluated by Dr. W. David McEchron of Davenport, who has treated him since 2004, and Dr. Antoinette Kavanaugh of Chicago, both of whom voiced concerns about his maturity level, according to court records. Kavanaugh determined Kiger was not competent to stand trial while McEchron called the teenager’s ability to fully assist his attorney “questionable.”
But McKenrick ruled that, with the assistance of his attorney and guardian ad litem, Kiger is capable of understanding the juvenile proceedings and assisting in his own defense.
Wolfe said Wednesday afternoon that he could not comment on the ruling because he had not yet been provided with a copy.
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