A 15-year-old boy charged in juvenile court with the shooting death of his 11-year-old sister formally denied the charges during a brief hearing Wednesday.
The boy was charged on Oct. 1 with the Sept. 28 shooting death of his sister, Carolanah Schenk, at their apartment on Curry Court in Fitchburg. He was charged in juvenile court with the equivalents of homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
He has now entered the juvenile equivalent of “not guilty” pleas to the charges.
The boy, who was released to the custody of his mother after a hearing on Oct. 1, will be back in court on Nov. 23. Before that hearing, the Dane County Department of Human Services will prepare a report detailing how it would like to see the boy’s case proceed. The department is also seeking a psychiatric evaluation to help it make its determination.
As with most records and proceedings in juvenile court, those reports will be confidential.
The boy was charged in juvenile court after Fitchburg police had originally sought an adult charge of first-degree reckless homicide.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Court Commissioner Anton Jamieson also advised the boy of the possible outcomes of his case, which could include everything from supervision by the county DHS to placement in a foster home to being placed in juvenile corrections with the state Department of Corrections.
The boy has denied deliberately shooting his sister. His attorney, state Assistant Public Defender Ben Gonring, said in court on Oct. 1 that the shooting was “clearly an accident.”
According to a juvenile delinquency petition, the boy told police he had found the gun near a sofa at the apartment. Police called the weapon a “ghost gun” because it was put together from parts, some of them polymer 3D-printed components.
The boy told a detective he removed the ammunition from the gun’s magazine, then put the magazine back into the gun, but did not check the gun’s chamber, the petition states.
The boy said he was raising the gun up in the direction of his sister to set it on the kitchen table when it fired. He said he did not pull the trigger and believes the gun misfired, the petition states.
Four other people were in the apartment at the time, according to the petition. One of them said she saw the boy “showing off the gun” and saying, “Look what I have,” then remove the ammunition from the gun. She said he pointed the gun directly at his sister and shot her, according to the petition.
Another person who was in the kitchen with the boy and his sister does not appear to have seen the shooting but saw the boy remove the magazine from the gun. She heard the shot and saw the boy holding the gun afterward. She also said she had seen the boy and the gun’s owner, whose name is redacted in the petition, “flexing” with the gun on other occasions.
Another person was in a bedroom and did not hear the shot, and another said he heard the shot and then heard the boy yelling for help.
At the Oct. 1 court hearing, Assistant District Attorney John Rome said police had been called to Curry Court days before the shooting after the boy was reported to be shooting an Airsoft gun and was confronted by a neighbor.
An open records request by the Wisconsin State Journal for police reports about that call, which happened on Sept. 26, was denied by Fitchburg police because an investigation is continuing.
But the neighbor’s wife, Kari Holmes, recently told the State Journal that she and her husband have called police on the boy and his friends three times in the past three years, including the gun incident. The earlier reports, she said, were to report the boy and his friends “garage shopping” and threatening her and her husband. Holmes said she believes the boy was shooting at her husband and their home on Sept. 26.
Holmes said she lived two doors from the boy’s family, who have moved since the girl’s death and now live in a motel.
Police reports on the other alleged prior incidents involving the boy were not immediately available but have been requested from Fitchburg police by the State Journal.
State Journal reporter Chris Rickert contributed to this report.