Court docs: Ripley County teen accused of killing siblings confessed while in psychiatric treatment

OSGOOD, Ind. -- A 14-year-old boy accused of smothering his two young siblings to death, claiming he had done so to "free them from Hell" spent time in a pair of psychiatric treatment programs between the 2017 murders and his arrest in late August. In one, according to court documents, he confessed to killing his brother and sister.

A court order from Aug. 30, days after his arrest at the state-run Larue Carter Hospital, said the boy "has the cognitive awareness to articulate a plausible defense," but a forthcoming mental evaluation will determine whether he is fit to stand trial for murder at all -- and, if he is, whether he will face the charges as an adult.

"In my time here, which has been 19 years, I'm not sure that I've seen anything quite as disturbing ... as something like this," Ripley County Prosecutor Richard Hertel said Wednesday.

At first, the boy's siblings' deaths seemed like bad luck. Tragedy, even, for two young members of the same family to die in such similar ways, the second following the first in a matter of weeks. No one on their quiet street knew exactly what had caused the 23-month-old girl and her 11-month-old brother to suddenly stop breathing, necessitating a pair of quick but unsuccessful trips to Margaret Mary Community Hospital. Neither did the doctors who examined them.

According to court documents, they ruled the first death a result of oxygen deprivation. The second: Asystole, a form of cardiac arrest.

An investigation launched after the second death eventually implicated their older brother, who in January confessed to a staff member at Resources Residential Treatment Facility he had smothered the girl with a pillow and the boy with a blanket, according to Hertel. 

By the time he made that confession, according to court documents, he had also confessed to two police detectives assigned to the case and three family members, one of whom contacted authorities In September 2017 after learning he had fatally and gruesomely injured a kitten for scratching him. 

The exact amount of time the teenager spent in each treatment program -- Resources and Larue Carter -- was not immediately clear from the information in court documents. 

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