Welty's trial goes forward with jury selection

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

CLAYTON, Mo. -- Jurors were selected Monday for the trial of a Southeast Missouri boy accused of killing a neighbor in 2006.

Owen Welty, now 15, was originally charged with first-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Don McCollough, a neighbor in rural Stoddard County.

But the charge was reduced to second-degree murder during a conference Monday morning among the defense, Judge John Ross and Stoddard County assistant prosecutor Rance Butler.

"In this case, the facts were more in line with murder two," Butler said later.

Welty, who is also charged with armed criminal action, was 13 old years when he was charged, making him one of the youngest people ever to be tried for murder as an adult in Missouri.

Welty has pleaded not guilty. If convicted he could be sentenced to life in prison, but he could also get a lesser sentence of 10 to 30 years on the second-degree murder charge, Butler said.

The case is being tried in St. Louis County Circuit Court on a change of venue. Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum said Welty was being held in the St. Louis County jail, but not with the general population.

A jury and two alternate jurors were selected Monday afternoon. During jury selection, nine of 50 potential jurors approached the bench to raise concerns and answer questions about whether they could be impartial due to the defendant's age.

The judge also lifted a gag order related to the case, and denied a motion to suppress evidence in the case, saying an officer who seized a computer from the Welty home had a reasonable basis and probable cause.

Welty, wearing a dress shirt and tie, sat quietly throughout most of the proceedings. He smiled on a few occasions, apparently when he spotted someone he knew.

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