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Two fifth-graders face trial in alleged Washington murder plot

By Laura Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Two Washington state fifth-grade boys, accused in a foiled plot to rape and kill a girl and kill or harm six other classmates, will stand trial as juveniles, a prosecutor said on Friday.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said the boys, 11 and 10, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on Friday over the alleged murder-rape plot that also targeted other children in Colville, Washington, about 215 miles east of Seattle.

One of the boys wanted the girl dead because "she's rude and always made fun of me and my friends," according to court documents.

"There are very few prosecutions of a crime of this magnitude with boys of this age," Rasmussen told Reuters.

Stevens County Superior Court Judge Allen Nielson determined during the hearing that the boys had the capacity to understand right and wrong, Rasmussen said.

Under Washington state law, children ages 8 to 12 are presumed not to have the mental capacity to form an intention to commit a crime. Juvenile court is typically reserved for defendants between ages 12 and 18.

The 10-year-old suspect was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, juvenile firearm possession and witness tampering, Rasmussen said.

The younger boy had taken a gun that originally belonged to his grandfather from his older brother's room, according to a declaration of probable cause.

The 11-year-old was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, possession of a dangerous weapon, a knife, at school and tampering with a witness, Rasmussen said.

The boys planned to lure the girl away from school in Colville, a town of 4,600 people in eastern Washington, according to court documents.

A teacher found a list of six more targeted classmates, prosecutors said.

The fifth-graders had boarded a school bus on February 7 with a knife, a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition in a backpack on their way to Fort Colville Elementary School, prosecutors said.

A fourth-grader on the bus saw the knife and reported it to a teacher's aide, prosecutors said. One of the suspects later said he would kill the student who told school officials about the weapons, they said.

If convicted of all charges, the boys could each be sentenced to 103 to 127 weeks unless a judge finds "manifest injustice" and orders a longer sentence, Rasmussen said.

The boys have been expelled from the school district indefinitely. A status hearing is set for April 8.

(Reporting by Laura Myers; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Beech)

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