SOUTH BEND – A 14-year-old, boy charged in the strangulation death of a 6-year-old northern Indiana girl, told police a “shadowy man” led him to kill the girl, according to an investigative report released Friday.
The boy is accused of murder and child molestation in juvenile court in the death of Grace Ross. His name is being withheld because of his age.
Grace was reported missing by her family the evening of March 12. Her body was later found in a nearby wooded area. An autopsy found the cause of her death to be homicide by asphyxiation. That same day, the 14-year-old boy was taken into custody by the County Metro Homicide Unit.
The teenager initially told investigators that Grace followed him into the woods and then he wandered around and lost track of her, according to the report. Police said the boy then referred to “a shadowy man” who controlled him and made him strangle the girl with his hands.
Attorneys for the boy filed a motion to close public access to the documents, arguing that the high-profile nature of Grace’s killing could introduce “prejudice” into their client’s case.
St. Joseph County Probate Court Magistrate Graham Polando wrote in Wednesday night’s ruling that Indiana law is clear that juvenile court proceedings can be made public if the offense would be murder or a felony if committed by an adult.
Polando also ruled after a query from St. Joseph County prosecutors there was nothing in the law that precluded the office from releasing the investigative report.
“We conclude that the public’s interest in information regarding the basis for this ongoing matter supports our release of this particular document in this case,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement Friday, the day the documents were released.
Polando’s ruling specifies that hearings in which psychiatrists or other mental health care professionals expect to testify will be closed.
He also postponed a May 13 hearing to determine whether the boy’s case will be moved to adult court after the parties sought more time to analyze the results of the mental health evaluations.