This is no elementary school class photo.
With rosy cheeks and a dimpled chin, 11-year-old Jordan Brown stares at the camera with eerie innocence, shadows turning his eyes pitch black.
It’s Jordan’s mug shot from 2009 after he was arrested for a crime seemingly too horrific for a child to understand, must less commit.
Police say Jordan picked up a 20-gauge youth-model shotgun and fired execution-style into the head of his father’s pregnant fiancée, Kenzie Houk, as she slept in their farmhouse in New Beaver, Pa., 40 miles north of Pittsburgh.
Both Houk, 27, and her baby died. The woman had been due to give birth in a month.
Three years later, Jordan, now 14, is on trial in juvenile court at the Lawrence County Government Center in New Castle in a case that could keep him locked away for another seven years.
Held in a youth detention facility since the shooting, Jordan originally was charged as an adult and faced life in prison. Now in juvenile court, the state’s jurisdiction ends when he turns 21.
With testimony beginning Tuesday in the three- to four-day trial, prosecutors suggest Jordan was jealous of Houk’s unborn son. Jordan’s family disputes that and says the boy was fond of both Houk and her two young daughters, who also lived with them.
Either way, relatives say, the case can only be described as a tragedy.
“We want him released now, because he’s lost his childhood, he has maintained his innocence, and he didn’t do this,” Jordan’s great-aunt, Cynthia Wiseman, tells WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh.
Only lawyers and close family members are allowed in the trial because of juvenile court rules. Among them is Houk’s father, who reeled as he listened to the first day’s testimony by a tree trimmer who called police after the victim’s 4-year-old daughter came out of the house and said, “My mommy’s dead.”
“It’s freaking horrible,” Jack Houk told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s just the start of it.”