Teen in custody for stabbing death of four-year-old cousin


Family and neighbors are in shock at what happened at east side town house Saturday night. Now a teen girl awaits word on whether she will be tried for murder as an adult in the stabbing death of her young cousin.

For Brooke Smith, what happened inside her cousin's east side town home is unthinkable.  This story has since made national headlines for what happened at the Beechwood Gardens Apartments late Saturday night.

"Everybody's just upset. They're not taking it well. Nobody would be taking it well under these circumstances," said Smith.

Police were called to the 2700 block of Graham Avenue just after 10 p.m. Saturday. They found four-year-old Leon Thomas III with multiple stab wounds. although they performed CPR, he did not survive his injuries.

The suspect is the child's 14-year-old cousin, who officers found walking along Ritter Avenue, a few blocks away, covered in blood.

"This was not an accident," said Indianapolis Metro Police public information officer Kendale Adams. "This was evident from some of the physical evidence on scene. And after a subsequent interview with the suspect, the detectives felt it appropriate to preliminarily charge her with murder," Adams said.

Detectives say the boy's 11-year-old sister may have witnessed the stabbing.

Eyewitness News has learned the 14-year-old had been arrested before for fighting. She lived in the apartment with her grandmother who has custody.

"Very sweet, very sweet, never disrespectful. Well, not to me. I had never seen her be disrespectful to anybody," said Smith.

Neighbor Tonya Billips said she is also in shock that this could happen to a family she says never caused any trouble. Billips says the girl often watched her four-year-old grandson play in the courtyard.

"She seemed like she was fine to me. Didn't seem like she would do nothing like that 'cause [they] are some real nice people over there," Billips told Eyewitness News.

Metro Police detectives say the grandparents, Angie and Bryan Shanks, were home at the time of the attack but they were upstairs when it happened. Charges against them are unlikely.

Now investigators and family members want to know one thing. Why?

"Nobody understands. Like I said, it's all a mystery to us. Nobody understands or knows what happened," said Smith.

The 14-year-old girl is being held at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center on the preliminary murder charge. 

A judge and the prosecutor will decide if she will be waived to adult court. Indiana law allows suspects as young as ten-years-old to be waived to adult court on a murder charge.  But there is a lot that goes into that decision.

Background, history of violence and abuse are a couple of the factors that will be weighed, and it could take weeks or even months before that decision is reached.