By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - For the second time in as many years, Butler County authorities are accusing juveniles of conspiracy to commit murder.
But authorities caution against drawing parallels between last year's alleged plot to kill the New Miami police chief and last week's case of Madison Township twins accused of conspiring to kill their brothers. Their mother tape-recorded the alleged scheme and reported it to police.
"Even though the charges may be similar, the facts of the cases are obviously different," said Assistant Prosecutor Greg Stephens. He agreed that the twins' case and the publicity it has generated have been unusual. But, Stephens said, "There hasn't been a whole lot typical about this case."
The New Miami case fizzled after a grand jury refused to indict three boys as "serious youthful offenders," a new classification that carries a juvenile sentence plus potential adult prison time. In that case, questions were raised about whether the boys committed a "substantial overt act" to advance their discussed plan - a requirement to prove conspiracy under Ohio law.
But in the twins' case, Sheriff's Lt. Mike Craft said, "I feel certain that there is plenty of other evidence to go forward."
He declined to elaborate, although the boys' mother, Geraldine Rice, has discussed a number of details, including an overview of what the boys allegedly said on the tape and indications that her sons had begun cutting a hole in the trailer wall, possibly to use as an escape route after carrying out their plot.
The boys, police said, planned to use knives to kill their brothers, ages 10 and 15; reports say one twin had been caught with three, 10-inch knives in his pockets recently.
Prosecutor Robin Piper says his office intends to pursue the "serious youthful offender" designation for the twins because of the boys' previous contact with the juvenile court system and the seriousness of the alleged offense.
The boys, called unruly after their mother reported they had run away three times in April alone, were being held in the county juvenile detention center awaiting a Tuesday court hearing on delinquency counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder. Richard N. Koehler II, an attorney for one twin, declined to comment. The other twin's lawyer, Gregory Beane, couldn't be reached Friday.
Both Craft and Piper said their offices have released extremely limited information on the case, but they cannot control what the boys' mother chooses to discuss.
Rice, 32, has granted numerous interviews to local and national news reporters, consenting to her name and image to be publicized - considered unusual in such cases because many news organizations generally avoid revealing identities of juveniles accused of crimes.
Craft said he doesn't think Rice's disclosures have hurt the case. Besides, he said, "She feels very strongly that she has a message to send to other parents."
Craft, who joined Rice for TV appearances on ABC's Good Morning America and Fox News, said he's been a bit surprised that about 20 news agencies, ranging from local to national, have contacted his office about the case. Rice's mother, Sally Whaley of South Fairmount, said when her daughter asked whether she should accept other TV program invitations, she responded: "Go for it, because you might be able to help other mothers."
Craft thinks part of the fascination is the idea of "two 14-year-old brothers who would have those type of emotions toward their own siblings."
But Craft says he would rather focus on a mother being confronted with the difficult decision to report her own children to police.
"I think the main reason we go to these media interviews is that the mother should be commended for coming to the police with her concerns," Craft said. "If you are suspicious in any manner with your children's activities, we encourage a parent to be a detective, to be nosy, to get into their business, to search their rooms if you need to. ... Nobody else is going to monitor your children's activities if you don't."
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