AUGUSTA — A judge has ruled one of three teenage boys charged in the strangulation and stabbing death of a Litchfield woman can be prosecuted as an adult.

William Smith, who was 15 at the time of the April 22, 2018, death of 47-year-old Kimberly Mironovas, who was the mother of his friend, Lukas Mironovas, was charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

District Court Judge Andrew Benson ruled, in a decision which was impounded until Monday afternoon, that after consideration of the seriousness of the crime, the characteristics of Smith, the public’s safety and the alternatives available within the juvenile justice system, that it is appropriate to prosecute the now 16-year-0ld Smith as if he were an adult, not a juvenile.

That means, instead of remaining in the juvenile justice system, which would result in him spending the next five years at Long Creek Youth Development Center and then being released when he turns 21, or potentially even sooner, Smith will face a grand jury. His attorney anticipates he will be indicted on the same murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges, and be tried as an adult and face a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison, or a maximum of life in prison.

One factor in Benson’s decision was the seriousness of the crime, with the judge writing in his decision, “This homicide was an act of extreme violence and one in which Smith was an active participant. Kim was strangled by both Smith and (Lukas) Mironovas until she was at the point of death. Once at that point, Mironovas then took a knife and stabbed her three times in the throat. Furthermore, she had a number of injuries associated with the strangulation, blunt force trauma, and apparent defensive wounds inflicted by her assailants during the initial assault.”

Smith has already acknowledged there is probable cause to believe he committed the offenses of intentional or knowing murder and conspiracy to commit murder, so it seems likely he’ll be indicted on those same charges, his attorney, Walter McKee, said.

An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but it indicates that there is enough evidence to proceed with formal charges and a trial.

“This decision was tremendously unfortunate to say the least,” McKee said of the decision to handle Smith as an adult. “Will was a 15 year old high school freshman when he was charged with committing his crime and will now face a mandatory minimum 25 years in adult prison. I certainly understand how the judge decided the way he did, but I think it is safe to say I completely disagree with it. Will should have been allowed to stay at Long Creek until he was 21. The experts agreed that was the best place for him.”

Marc Malon, legislative and press liaison for the state Office of the Attorney General, declined to comment other than saying the ruling speaks for itself and the next step in the matter is for it to be presented to a grand jury.

Factors to be considered by the court in determining whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult include the seriousness of the crime; the characteristics of the juvenile, including his or her record, age and attitude and pattern of living, whether the protection of the public’s safety requires the juvenile to be held for a longer period of time than he would be as a juvenile, and whether future criminal conduct by the juvenile would be deterred by the juvenile justice system.

Smith and Kimberly Mironovas’ son Lukas Mironovas, 16, were charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, while a third teen involved in the incident, Thomas “TJ” Severance, 14, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Severance pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and has been committed to Long Creek until he is 21 years old.

Lukas Mironovas is scheduled to have a bind-over hearing, the process by which a judge determines whether he would be treated as a juvenile or an adult,  next month.

The three teens are alleged by police to have planned to kill Kimberly Mironovas, in part because they were mad at her after she accused them of stealing her marijuana the previous night.

Police testifying at Smith’s bind-over hearing said Smith acknowledged he helped strangle Ms. Mironovas but said he stopped after a few seconds because he couldn’t go through with it. He said he stopped strangling her and backed away, and Lukas Mironovas strangled her and then stabbed her.

Benson, in his 18-page decision, said the killing was premeditated and it was Smith who first suggested they kill Kimberly and take her car. Benson said that Smith appears to have been the “ringleader in the murder of Kimberly Mironovas,” although testimony at Smith’s bind-over hearing also indicated that Lukas Mironovas had admitted to a police officer he did “most of it.” Benson wrote that he accepts the finding of psychologists who testified that Smith poses less risk to the public than many, if not most juvenile offenders and that there is some realistic possibility of rehabilitation in the juvenile system.

But he expressed concern that the greatest possible commitment in the juvenile system for Smith would be five years, until he is 21 years old, which he said could diminish the gravity of the crime.

“Even if there were a guarantee that Smith would be fully rehabilitated during a commitment to a Department of Corrections juvenile detention facility — a prospect the Court finds unlikely — such a disposition would only serve to grossly diminish the gravity of the offense in the view of the Court,” Benson wrote.

McKee, in his written closing arguments, said Smith helped attempt to kill Kimberly Mironovas for between 5 and 15 seconds before stopping strangling her, Lukas Mironovas acknowledged to police he was the primary actor in his mother’s death, Smith has no criminal record despite an upbringing he said included a drug-addicted and absent mother, is not a public safety risk because he has a low risk of future violent behavior and a high amenability to treatment and can and will change between now and the time he turns 21 and would be released. He also cited testimony from a psychiatrist , from the June bind-over hearing, about the brain development of juveniles, which he said indicated juveniles are less able to make mature judgements, are more vulnerable to negative external interferences, and have a greater capacity for change and reform.

“Will has established by a preponderance of the evidence that it is appropriate for him to not be bound over,” McKee wrote. “Doing otherwise would reject the overwhelming evidence in this case and double the tragedy here between the loss of Ms. Mironovas and throwing Will into a prison in which he does not belong, and which the evidence would not support.”

Assistant Attorney General Katie Silsby, who assisted prosecutor Meg Elam in the case, wrote in her closing arguments seeking to have Smith bound-over for trial as an adult that the murder of Mironovas was premeditated and violent, the only evidence Smith only participated in only five to 15 seconds of her strangulation is from Smith himself, Smith initially lied to police when questioned about the crime, that all adolescents have adolescent brains but most aren’t charged with murder, that he has shown an unwillingness to change and follow rules at Long Creek where he is already being held, and that being detained for only five years for taking part in killing someone would be “a grotesque diminishment of the gravity of the brutal murder committed by Smith and Mironovas.”

“As tragic as the murder of Kimberly Mironovas is, we have no power to reverse time and undo circumstances that brought Smith to the point that he was willing to suggest, plan, strangle, and punch another human being causing death, because she was rude and he wanted a car,” Sibley wrote. “Smith has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that it is inappropriate to prosecute him as an adult.”

Lukas Mironovas, of Litchfield, and Smith and Severance, both of Ashland, Massachusetts, were arrested the morning of April 22, 2018, with Smith driving in Mironovas’ car, and taken to the Gardiner Police Department, where state police detectives interviewed them.

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