hen police arrived at the yellow-brick house in Garland, Tex., on the afternoon of Aug. 17, 2010, they found Alan Nevil lying near death in a neighbor’s yard. He had been shot five times. One bullet was lodged in his throat. His wife, Darlene, was found dead inside the house, shot in the back and head.
Despite the blood in his mouth, Alan managed to gargle the name of their attacker.
It was his stepdaughter’s 13-year-old boyfriend, he said.
Minutes later, police pulled up outside the boyfriend’s house, just a few blocks away. There, they found Darlene’s 12-year-old daughter and her boyfriend — having celebratory sex.
When Alan Nevil succumbed to his injuries 16 days later, the young couple was charged with capital murder. Adults convicted of the charge can be executed. Charged as juveniles, though, the youths faced a maximum of 40 years in prison. The boyfriend and girlfriend both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 28 years and 20 years, respectively. Neither has been publicly named because they were juveniles.
“I feel nothing but disgust for you,” Alan’s sister, Fran Nevil Cawley, said to the girl in court.
Less than six years later, the Nevil family’s disgust has suddenly deepened.
On Wednesday, a Dallas judge ordered the boy released when he turns 19 next month, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The ruling was an astonishing — and for the Nevil family, terrifying — twist on the 2010 double murder. Had the boy been a year older at the time of the crime, he could have faced the death penalty. Even still, Judge Andrea Martin could have transferred him to adult prison for 10 years. Instead, he will now face nothing more than parole and anger-management classes.
Juvenile justice experts and officials said the boy had turned over a new leaf behind bars, accepting responsibility for the crime, getting his GED and becoming a role model for other inmates at his juvenile-detention center.
But the ruling left the Nevils furious, and fearful.
“He gets to see his mom, and my dad is in a box,” Susan Nevil told Fox4, displaying Alan Nevil’s ashes. “This is how my kids get to visit their grandfather. And it’s just not right.”
She added that she has dreams in which her father’s murderer tracks her down and kills her, too.
The judge’s ruling raises questions about the age at which juveniles can be charged as adults — in Texas, it is 14 — as well as the severity of sentences they should face when convicted. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for crimes committed before age 18. Some scientists say adolescents’ brains aren’t as capable of controlling impulses and understanding long-term consequences as adult brains. In the past decade, many states have moved away from life sentences for minors.
[States are getting rid of life sentences for minors. And most of them are red states.]
For the Nevils, no amount of expert testimony can justify the judge’s ruling.
“Five years?” shouted Alan Nevil’s son, Alan Jr., as he left the courtroom, according to the Morning News. “For capital murder?”
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