ST. GEORGE — A 15-year-old boy charged with murder when he was 14 will be prosecuted as an adult, a juvenile court judge said Wednesday.

The boy was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, rape and aggravated sexual assault in the Jan. 10 strangulation death of Keely Amber Hall, also 15. Detectives said the boy met Hall the same day she was killed.

Hall's battered and partially nude body was found about 3 a.m. by two other boys as they were cutting through Dixie Downs Park on their way home. The playground also serves children attending a nearby elementary school and is used as a neighborhood park.

Fifth District Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Higbee remanded the boy's case to district court following a certification hearing attended by the boy's mother and the victim's family. If convicted in district court, the boy could be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Both the defense and prosecution approved of the state's request to certify the boy as an adult. Once his case is filed, which could be as early as Monday, Higbee said restrictions placed on the media to protect the boy's name would be lifted.

Court was delayed by 45 minutes while the judge read through a pre-sentence report prepared by the juvenile probation office. The report included a psychological evaluation of the juvenile and a review of his home life.

Higbee said of the 10 statutory factors he must consider before certifying a juvenile to stand trial as an adult, at least five factors were "particularly relevant."

"First, and the most compelling in the eyes of the court, is the seriousness of the offense," the judge said. "The overwhelming aspect of this crime is so serious it is hard to put it into words. It was brutal, malicious, a terrible offense in every way."

Higbee said while it was hard to certify a 15-year-old boy as an adult, he was "convinced he has sufficient maturity to be responsible for his actions in this case."

The judge also said it was doubtful the boy could be successfully rehabilitated in the juvenile system.

"Everyone who has dealt with him (the boy), has noted a blandness and lack of empathy for the victim and her family," Higbee said. "His lifestyle to this point shows he does not feel much compunction to follow the rules. He does whatever happens to meet his needs at the time. There is no moral compass. It doesnit seem to be in existence."

Defense attorney Alan Boyack asked the judge to allow the boy to remain in juvenile detention until the state can make arrangements to hold him in prison.

"He is doing very well (in juvenile detention) and I would hate to put him in prison until we get something set up with the Department of Corrections," Boyack said, adding the 15-year-old boy would need special accommodations for his own protection.

Higbee agreed to a two-week delay in moving the boy to the county jail, but reminded Boyack his client is bound for the adult justice system.

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