Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
When Children Kill
Charles Lewis Jr.
Charles Lewis Jr.
A sentencing hearing is underway for 15-year-old Charles Lewis Jr,. a Lansing, Michigan, boy convicted of felony murder in the death of Shayla Johnson, 19, in July 2010. Lewis, 13 at the time, came along with his father, Charles Lewis Sr., and six others on a kidnapping that escalated into murder in which Lewis Sr. was the gunman. The father and son had reunited after Lewis Sr.'s release from prison, and plotted to kidnap Johnson to make her divulge the location of some marijuana. After Johnson was forced into the trunk of a car, Lewis Sr. shot her.

Under the 1997 Michigan Juvenile Justice Reform Act, Lewis's case was handled in juvenile court, but with "adult-like proceedings." Convicted on January 25, he faces a sentence of life without parole. This would make him Michigan's youngest lifer, and one of only 73 in the country who were 13 or 14 at the time of a crime that led to a life sentence. If sentenced as a juvenile, however, Lewis will serve in a juvenile facility until he is released at 21. A third option would put Lewis in a juvenile facility until he is 21, at which point a judge would consider sentencing him to adult prison. During the sentencing hearing Johnson's mother, Lori Black, delivered testimony in favor of a life sentence. In her argument, Lewis's attorney, Deborah LaBelle, said "He's not an adult and you can't wave a magic wand and say, 'You're 13, you're an adult.' I have teenage boys -- they are not adults."
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