A teenage murder suspect will be treated as a youthful offender in the courts, a Tulsa County judge ruled Wednesday.
The judge ruled Joshua Mooney needs treatment and a chance at rehabilitation, and he will receive that in a secure facility through the Office of Juvenile Affairs.
Prosecutors disagreed with the decision and say they plan to appeal.
Mooney was 14 when deputies say he shot and killed Mary Escue in her parents' Jenks home.
Her family said they were extremely disappointed in Wednesday's ruling.
The judge said he had no way to predict what Mooney would do in the future, but said the evidence in this case shows Mooney is a candidate for rehabilitation.
How a teenager like Mooney should be treated in the courts for a serious crime like murder, depends on seven factors in the law: things like whether the crime was willful, aggressive and pre-meditated, if it affected a person, the suspect's past history and home life, whether the suspect is a threat to the public, as well as whether the suspect is open to treatment.
Mooney's attorneys argued the murder was not pre-meditated, that he broke into a house to steal and killed Mary Escue from excitement.
Their experts agreed Mooney is a candidate for treatment and that sending him to an adult prison at his age is not the answer.
"Certainly, his tender age is motivating in trying to save someone's life to give them a chance. That's how our office approached it," said defense attorney Jack Zanerhaft.
Prosecutors argued the murder was pre-meditated when he forced Mary Escue into the study at gunpoint, pointed the gun at her head and pulled the trigger, even though she begged him not to kill her.
They argue that his behavior has been one big escalation in the past year, from getting kicked out of school, to shooting at an occupied house, to slaughtering pigs, committing burglaries and more.
They say treatment didn't help him then, so why would it now? They wanted him treated as an adult, where he could spend life in prison, not where he'll get out in two to three years.
"There's a great deal of disparity, just from an accountability standpoint," said Doug Drummond, of the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office. "That's what's alarming to her family and people not involved in the system. We're looking at really extreme positions, and is that enough accountability?"
The judge said it was a very tough decision, but said Mooney's past shows he did best when there were strict consequences for his actions, and the plan created by the Office of Juvenile Affairs will have such consequences.
He said he will monitor Mooney's progress each year and if he is not successful, he can always be sent to an adult prison.
The family of Mary Escue certainly doesn't believe three years is enough for her murder, but prosecutors told them this is one of many battles, that this case is not a sprint, it's a marathon and there is more to come.