A 13-year-old charged with murder in last year’s shooting death of another teen pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday in Houston County Superior Court.
Kaden Chase Barefoot, who is being tried as an adult, was indicted on two counts of felony murder and one count each of malice murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, attempted armed robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, theft by receiving a stolen firearm and possession of the pain medication hydrocodone.
Barefoot is accused of shooting 16-year-old Ryan Skeen in the neck Oct. 26 n Franklin Square in a neighborhood south of Feagin Mill Road. Skeen died Oct. 28 at the Medical Center, Navicent Health.
Barefoot was 13 at the time of the shooting. He turns 14 in April.
Barefoot is accused of shooting Skeen with a 9mm handgun during an attempt to rob him of an undisclosed amount of marijuana, according to the indictment.
“A not guilty plea means that he’s going to contest the charges,” Gregory Bushway, one of Barefoot’s Macon attorneys, said after Wednesday’s brief hearing. “The state has the burden of proof of proving beyond reasonable doubt, which is the highest burden under the law in the state of the Georgia, that he is guilty of each and every one of these crimes.”
Barefoot’s parents, grandparents and a close family friend declined comment as they left the courtroom. Family members of Skeen, including his mother, were also in the courtroom for the hearing. They were escorted to the district attorney’s office by a victim’s advocate and were not reached for comment.
Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig said the case could be ready for trial this summer. Hartwig declined to comment on the facts of the case.
Without having had the opportunity yet to review the prosecution’s evidence, Bushway said he’s not sure if the defense will be ready for trial by then.
“This is not something we’re looking to push back,” Bushway said. “Kaden wants to defend the charges and get into court. But of course, every lawyer wants to have time to prepare that defense. But until I look at their evidence I won’t know.”
Barefoot is being held without bond at the Crisp County Regional Youth Detention Center. Bushway said he expects the next step in the process will be to schedule a bond hearing in the near future. He declined to comment on the facts of case.
“I think that will be forthcoming later,” said Bushway, who said he wants to review the state’s case file and talk with his client first.
For Barefoot, a junior high student now taking classes in custody, to be tried as an adult is difficult for him, his attorney said.
Most people never really stop and think what it would be like to be indicted for murder, and murder means, under Georgia law for a typical adult, that he’s going to go off to the penitentiary if convicted for 30 years before he’s eligible for parole … That would break a lot of people,” Bushway said.
“It’s difficult for anybody, and you can imagine being 13 years old and looking at those sorts of circumstances,” he said.
Bushway said he and Barefoot’s family also recognize that it is also difficult for the victim’s family.
“Both the victim and my client were teenagers, and Kaden’s family recognizes this is difficult for both sides,” Bushway said. “This is a tragedy. This just an absolute tragedy that a young man was shot and killed.”
He said the stakes could not be an higher for Barefoot.
“His liberty and his life are at stake in the sense he’s looking at significant time in prison if he’s convicted of these charges,” Bushway said.
Barefoot was “quite a baseball player,” his attorney said, for a Macon baseball league in Macon before he was arrested.
“He was very well thought of and seemed to have a promising career,” Bushway said. “He often … competed with older boys and was very passionate about baseball. Very well thought of by his coaches in the Vine-Ingle organization and other coaches as well.”