MANKATO — The Mankato teenager accused of beating a toddler to death has multiple prior juvenile convictions, a prosecutor says.
“His record reflects an escalation of criminal conduct over time,” Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Todd Coryell said Friday during a virtual hearing in the murder case against Lee Wayne Young Jr., 17.
Judge Gregory Anderson heard arguments over whether Young should be tried as a juvenile or as an adult.
Young is suspected of beating and sexually assaulting a 2-year-old boy he knows in a Mankato residence in April. The toddler died from multiple traumatic injuries, a medical examiner ruled.
Young gave conflicting accounts of his whereabouts around the time of the boy’s death, court documents say. A 12-year-old girl told police she found the boy bleeding and cold in his room while she was home alone with the boy and Young.
Young, who was then 16, was charged with second-degree murder as a juvenile. Felony juvenile cases against 16- and 17-year-olds years are public under state law.
Juveniles can be prosecuted as adults in Minnesota in some cases. In second-degree murder cases adult certification is presumed unless the child’s attorney presents evidence and a judge agrees it should stay in juvenile court.
Coryell argued and a Blue Earth County juvenile probation officer also recommended Young should be tried as an adult.
“I could not locate one single case in Minnesota in which second-degree murder is not determined to be serious enough for this factor to weigh strongly in favor of adult certification,” Coryell said.
The prosecutor said Young has been involved in at least 20 juvenile court files, involving criminal, truancy or other matters. He has been convicted of four crimes, according to Coryell, including drug sales, obstructing the legal process, fleeing police and giving a false name to police. Young spent time in a juvenile detention facility and failed a probation drug test in April.
Defense attorney Kevin O’Connor Green said Young was amenable to treatment and suggested a teenager whose brain is not yet fully developed should not be tried as an adult. Green otherwise presented few arguments, instead stating he wanted the case to proceed either way.
“My client is anxious to exonerate himself,” Green said, claiming Young’s DNA was not found on the toddler’s body.
Anderson has up to 15 days to issue a ruling on the adult certification, Coryell told The Free Press.
Young meanwhile continues to be held in a juvenile detention facility.