East Feliciana jury expected to get case against teen — (The Advocate)

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The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA.)

June 20, 2000

Author: JAMES MINTON

An East Feliciana Parish jury could decide today whether a 16-year-old boy spends the rest of his life in prison for killing a man with a hunting rifle last year.  George H. Ware Jr., the 20th Judicial District judge hearing the case, said he expects the case to go to the jury about noon today.
Prosecutors presented their case Monday against Ryan Crotwell of Bluff Creek, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Ricky Ross, 48, on April 22, 1999.A .270-caliber rifle slug hit Ross as the Genola Road resident mowed grass in front of his brother’s house. The fatal shot and another were fired through mini-blinds and a closed window of the residence. Ross died of massive internal bleeding, a pathologist testified Monday.

Other testimony suggested the shooting occurred after Crotwell and his 14-year-old cousin, Jeremy Smith, discussed plans to run away from home in a truck belonging to Wayne Ross, Smith’s stepfather and Ricky Ross’ brother.

Immediately before the shooting, Smith’s mother learned her son had been skipping school for several weeks. Crotwell had been suspended from school.

Crotwell, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, could have been tried as a juvenile, but District Attorney Charles Shropshire elected to try him as an adult after getting a grand jury indictment in May 1999.

Second-degree murder is punishable by life in prison.

Crotwell, who is represented by Public Defender Sam D’Aquilla, has pleaded “not guilty” and “not guilty by reason of insanity. “Prosecutors presented their case Monday afternoon, and D’Aquilla called one witness – a child psychiatrist – before Ware allowed jurors to go to their homes.

Smith testified that Crotwell wanted to see Wayne Ross’ guns as they discussed running away from home for Smith to avoid punishment for skipping school.

He said Crotwell was concerned that Ricky Ross would see them leave in the truck.

“Ryan got off on a story about, ‘What are we going to do about Ricky?’ I said he’ll probably get drunk or leave and go to a bar,” Smith testified.

Smith said he went outside to help Ricky Ross with the lawn work as ordered by his mother, but he said Crotwell remarked, “I’ll take care of it.””I didn’t think nothing of it,” Smith said, adding he also may have said, “Whatever.”D’Aquilla pointed to inconsistencies between Smith’s testimony and statements he gave to sheriff’s detectives the day of the shooting.

Smith denied from the witness stand that he joked with Crotwell about also killing Ricky Ross’ girlfriend, Mary, but D’Aquilla played part of taped statement to detectives in which Smith said he may have joked about “doing Mary. “Neighbors testified they found both boys hysterical when they arrived at the scene. Smith said he reported the shooting by calling his mother at work, but no one offered testimony to indicate either boy attempted to render aid to Ross.

A child psychiatrist testified she treated Crotwell two months before the shooting and prescribed a medication to treat depression and his tendency to defy authority.