A district court judge must decide whether the Winthrop teenager who admitted to killing his parents last Halloween can be rehabilitated in the juvenile system over the next two years, or whether he must be treated as an adult.
Andrew Balcer, now 18, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Antonio and Alice Balcer, both 47. He turned 18 in December, about six weeks after his parents died.
District Court Judge Eric Walker on Wednesday found there was probable cause to charge Balcer with murder. On Thursday, he took under advisement the decision about whether Balcer belongs in the juvenile or the adult system. He said he would issue a written ruling “soon,” but did not give a specific timeframe.
In deciding whether to try juveniles as adults, Maine law requires that Walker consider the seriousness of the crime; the characteristics of the juvenile, including age, maturity and criminal history; and the sentencing alternatives available to the juvenile court.
Assistant Attorney General Robert Ellis, who is prosecuting the case, wants Balcer tried as an adult. But Balcer’s defense attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, believes his client is better served at Long Creek Youth Development Center, where he has been held since Oct. 31, 2016.
If Balcer is to be tried as an adult, he would be moved to the Kennebec County Jail to await the outcome of his case. He would face between 25 years and life in prison if convicted of murder as an adult. Under Maine law, a life sentence may be imposed when there are multiple homicide victims.
If found guilty of murder as a juvenile, Balcer would be confined to a juvenile facility until he turns 21, then released without probation or other supervision by the Maine Department of Corrections.
McKee, who has the burden proving his client should be tried as a juvenile, said in his closing statement Thursday that what happened the night of Oct. 31, 2016, at the Balcer home “is not contested.” The defense attorney argued that Long Creek’s counseling and educational programs, which the defendant has taken advantage of, are focused on people Balcer’s age rather than adults.
The teen was struggling with gender identity and felt repressed at home, which most likely led to his “snapping” and slaying his parents, according to a state forensic psychiatrist.
Balcer has identified as female, according to testimony Thursday at the Capital Judicial Center. While incarcerated at Long Creek, Balcer used the name Andrea for a while and dressed as a female but has since returned to identifying as male in preparation for the possibility he will end up in the adult system.
“The adult system does not lend itself well to addressing his gender identity issues,” McKee said.
Ellis argued Thursday that keeping Balcer in the system for just two additional years, until he turns 21, diminishes the gravity of his admitted crimes — stabbing his parents multiple times and killing the family dog because it was barking.
“Let’s not lose sight of the brutality of this crime,” Ellis told the judge. “You called it ‘executing your parents.’ You can’t get much more violent and intentional than what happened here. For the public’s safety, he needs to be in the system a lot longer than two years.”
Balcer’s mother was stabbed nine times and his father 13 times, Dr. Mark Flamenbaum, the chief medical examiner, testified Wednesday.
In an interview with investigators played Wednesday, Balcer said that he stabbed his mother repeatedly in the back while she was hugging him, then stabbed his father and, finally, the dog because it would not stop barking.
It is not unusual for Maine judges to find that teenagers as young as 16 should be tried as adults for violent crimes. Last year, Judge Bernard O’Mara ruled that Samuel Geary, now 18, of Houlton should be tried as an adult for murder due, in part, to the serious nature of the crime.
Geary was 16 and his co-defendant, Reginald Dobbins, was 18 when the two stabbed and brutally beat Keith Suitter, 61, of Houlton to death on March 1, 2015. Geary pleaded guilty to murder and is serving a 40-year sentence at the Maine State Prison in Warren.
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