HOLLIDAYSBURG - Two Altoona teenagers will be on dramatically different paths through the Blair County criminal court system after a pair of rulings by Judge Elizabeth Doyle.
A 16-year-old boy will be tried in juvenile court, and an 18-year-old boy will tried as an adult for a crime committed as a juvenile. The gun-toting boys allegedly committed violence and other serious crimes in separate cases, authorities said.
Doyle's rulings followed six days of testimony from victims, police, educators and mental health experts.
If convicted, the 16-year-old likely will stay at George Junior Republic in Grove City, where he will play sports and attend school. He is currently at the juvenile institution. He also will have a chance to attend junior college or college.
The other boy, Marquis D. Mathis, who faces charges of robbery and assault, will be tried in adult court, and, if convicted, likely will be sent to state prison.
Mathis is celebrating his 18th birthday as an inmate in the Blair County Prison.
Doyle did not comment about her decisions.
Her ruling in the cases found the 16-year-old, who is charged with two incidents - one involving the beating of another youth and the other firing a gun into the kitchen of a home - acted impulsively in carrying out his crimes.
He is charged with possession of a firearm by a minor, recklessly endangering another person, discharging a firearm into an occupied structure, assault and other offenses.
Mathis had no juvenile record, but as Doyle determined, police established a case that he was involved in two violent robberies.
Mathis is charged with robbing a man and his fiancee walking in downtown Altoona on Feb. 1, police said. He is also charged with entering a garage in Altoona on Feb. 22 and robbing two men, hitting one man in the face with the gun and allegedly firing his weapon.
Placing Mathis in the juvenile system until he's 21 is not enough time for him to be rehabilitated, Doyle said.
"There is a need to protect the community ... during his long-term period of rehabilitation," Doyle said.
Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio has been asking those juveniles over 15 who commit these serious and often violent crimes be prosecuted in the adult criminal system.
Consiglio called the juveniles who commit these offenses are "criminals," not "kids."
Many of the excessively violent youths have come to Blair County from metropolitan areas. Few of them are "homegrown," he said.
Consiglio is upset that a juvenile probation officer fought to keep the 16-year-old in the juvenile court.
Probation Officer Kathy Dickinson, who was mentioned several times in Doyle's opinion, said she has faith in the boy and that he can be best served in the juvenile system.
"I feel he has a chance. ... He has a lot of positive attitudes. He has a foundation he can build on. He's been open and honest," she said.
Mathis' next court appearance will be next week during a trial list review.