State will decide if Dollar General murder suspect will be tried as an adult

The next steps in the process for the 15-year-old arrested in the killing of a Dollar General clerk are underway.

Sources tell FOX 4 the teen did not speak with police but asked for a lawyer so detectives didn’t get anything from him about what happened. He is expected to make an appearance before a juvenile judge early next week.

The 15-year-old seen in the surveillance video fatally shooting Gabrielle Simmons is now in the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center.

“Generally, a child within 48 hours has to have an initial detention hearing,” explained Lea Probst with Dallas County Juvenile Department.

While the specifics of the case against the arrested juvenile in the Dollar General killing cannot be discussed, two Dallas County juvenile services experts talk about what happens in cases involving minors.

“At that point, a decision is made to either detain or release the child,” Probst said. “And then thereafter, they will have a detention hearing every 10 days.

Police said the 15-year-old has a prior family violence history that will be considered along with evaluations for any physical or sexual abuse. The state will decide whether the case will go through the juvenile system or if the DA will try to certify him to stand trial as an adult.

“You can be certified at age 14, depending on the offense and the nature of the offense,” explained Alicia Lawhorn with the Dallas County Juvenile Department.

Most go through the juvenile system. A teen can get a determinant 40-year sentence and committed then to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department as a minor.

“A decision will be made before the child’s nineteenth birthday on whether or not that case will be transferred to the adult system,” Probst said.

Where he or she would serve the remainder of the 40-year sentence, the juvenile judge reaches his or her decision on a case in part by the recommendations of Leah Probst and Alicia Lawhorn

“It’s difficult, especially with myself being a parent,” Lawhorn said. “We're dealing with children’s lives, and then we're dealing with the public. We have a protocol that we have to protect the public, and we have to definitely protect the child, also. So it’s very difficult.”

Beyond the initial hearing and subsequent ten days’ hearings, there is no real time frame on how long it takes a case to be completed in the juvenile system. They are typically shorter than the time it takes for a case to be decided in adult court.

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