- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - A northwest Missouri teenager has been charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree murder in his grandparents’ deaths after a judge ruled the case should be moved out of juvenile court.

Joseph Johnson, 16, is accused in the July 4 deaths of James Johnson, 72, and his wife, Beverly Johnson, 76. Testimony at a hearing Wednesday in Buchanan County Court indicated the couple was shot to death and James Johnson showed signs of strangulation. Their bodies were found in a home they shared with their grandson east of St. Joseph.

Buchanan County Circuit Judge Dan Kellogg ruled the case would be moved to adult court in part because “the offenses alleged involve viciousness, force and violence, and involved the use of a weapon.”

Shortly after the ruling, County Prosecutor Dwight Scroggins charged Johnson with two counts of first-degree murder.

Buchanan County juvenile authorities testifying at the hearing strongly recommended that the teenager be tried as an adult, the St. Joseph News-Press reported (http://bit.ly/1EpdFCQ ).

Johnson’s attorney, Susan Rinne, argued that he had no history of violence or criminal issues and could be rehabilitated if he stayed in the juvenile system.

“He’s not a gang member, there’s no indication of escalating behavior or violent crime. Joey hasn’t committed so much as a status offense,” Rinne told the court.

The teen, who was home-schooled and lived with his grandparents in Buchanan County, was arrested during a traffic stop in July in Platte County a few hours after the killings. According to a probable cause statement, the deputy who stopped him discovered he had $600, extra clothes, a credit card belonging to his grandparents and directions to Louisville, Kentucky.

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, http://www.newspressnow.com

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