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This weekend’s arrest of a 15-year-old boy in the killing of a fellow teenager marks the first time in a decade in Maine when a child has been charged in another child’s killing.
Police on Saturday arrested Aidan Grant of Wayne in the July 18 death of 14-year-old Brooke McLaughlin of Mount Vernon. The pair were in a relationship, according to Grant’s Facebook profile.
McLaughlin is the 18th person this year whose death has been ruled a homicide in Maine, a number that puts the state on track to set a homicide record. But the killing of a child allegedly by another child sets this case apart. Grant is only the ninth juvenile to be charged in a homicide case in Maine since 1995, according to Maine State Police crime statistics.
Grant is being held at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, the state’s youth prison, according to the Maine State Police, which investigates the majority of homicides in Maine.
The most recent killing in which a child was charged happened 10 years ago, when a 10-year-old Fairfield girl, whom the Bangor Daily News has never named due to her young age, was charged with manslaughter in the death of 3-month-old Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway on July 8, 2012.
Two years later, in a plea agreement, the manslaughter charge was dropped and she pleaded guilty to lesser charges that remain sealed.
Because he is a juvenile, Grant’s case is taking place at the District Court level, where juvenile cases are tried in Maine. But the Maine attorney general’s office, which prosecutes all homicides in Maine, has asked the judge to treat Grant as an adult due to the serious nature of his alleged crime. That would require a public hearing, and if Grant is treated as an adult, a judge could impose a longer sentence.
The goal of the state’s juvenile criminal code is focused on rehabilitation and does not include punishment as a goal, as it does with adults.
Juveniles convicted of crimes can be sentenced to Long Creek up until their 21st birthdays.
The law allows juveniles convicted of manslaughter or murder to be confined to the state’s only jail for young people until they are 21, then moved to an adult facility.
The first time that kind of a sentence was imposed was in the case of Patrick Armstrong, who was 14 when he beat his neighbor, fellow 14-year-old Marlee Johnston, to death with an aluminum baseball bat on Nov. 26, 2005. Armstrong and Johnston lived in Fayette, which neighbors Mount Vernon.
Armstrong agreed to be treated as an adult.
He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December 2006 and was sentenced to 25 years of incarceration with all but 16 years suspended to be followed by four years of probation. The judge ordered that he be held at the former Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston until he turned 21, then moved to an adult facility.
Now 31, Armstrong is on probation being supervised by Ellsworth-based probation officers, according to the Maine Department of Corrections.
Armstrong’s case could serve as an example for how Grant’s might be handled. The biggest known difference between the cases at this early stage is that Armstrong knew but was not dating his victim as Grant allegedly was.
That factor could make Grant the youngest person ever charged in Maine with killing someone he was dating or involved with romantically. Maine State Police statistics show that the most recent domestic violence homicide in which a juvenile was charged was in 2009 when a 17-year-old father was charged with slaying his infant.
The state characterizes a case as a domestic violence homicide when a family member kills another family member or intimate partner. Generally, about half of Maine’s homicides each year are domestic violence homicides.
Just as Maine’s adult homicide rate is low compared with the rest of the country, the rate for juvenile offenders is even lower.
In 2020, 1,122 juveniles in the U.S. were charged with murder, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention within the Department of Justice. Those figures did not break down how many of the victims were juveniles or adults.
That figure represented 8 percent of all homicides in the country that year, a figure far higher than Maine’s share of homicides in which juveniles are accused.
If convicted of murder as an adult, Grant would face between 25 years and life in prison. He would face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter.