A North Alabama teen accused of killing five of his family members has a long road ahead of him. Mason Sisk, 14, is currently charged as a juvenile, and it's still unknown if prosecutors will try him as an adult.
The Limestone County Sheriff's Office said Sisk is being held in a juvenile detention facility. However, if he's charged as an adult, WAAY 31 learned he will be transferred to the Limestone County Jail.
People who live in Limestone County said they're still processing how a 14-year-old is accused of murdering his parents and siblings at their Elkmont home.
"He's someone's grandson, family member. God loves him, and that's not going to change," said Sandy Smith, who lives in Limestone County.
"I think he definitely needs some guidance," said Lee Knight, who also lives in the area.
Mason Sisk is currently charged as a juvenile, and Tim Gann, a Madison County Assistant District Attorney, said it could take months to charge him as an adult.
"When you are 16-years-old and you commit a Class A felony with a weapon, you can be charged directly as an adult, but when you're below 16, you would have to go through the transfer process. They will have to go through that with this young man," he said.
Gann is not connected with this case, but he said he's prosecuted many cases involving juveniles and murder. He said mental evaluations along with looking into the teen's family and criminal history will all be factors a judge will consider when deciding if he should be charged as an adult.
"Once a judge certifies a 14-year-old, then they are an adult and they have to be treated as such according to the law," he said.
Less than 24 hours after the murders, Mary Sisk's mother told a crowd at a church vigil she forgives Mason. It's a message that stands out to people in Limestone County.
"This is a small town, and you're going to have mixed feelings. People are going to have mixed feelings about that. I think the majority will be behind him and support him," Smith said.
"I feel like that's a little quick. I feel like it takes more than 24 hours to process something like that," Knight added.
Prosecutors said a case like this can take several years before it goes to trial because of the suspect's age and the number of victims. Gann said he wouldn't be surprised if Mason is 18 or 19 years old when the case is finally brought before a jury.
WAAY 31 learned if he is tried as an adult, then he could possibly spend the rest of his life behind bars.
"It is extremely disturbing the condition that the child is in to think that is the appropriate way to handle whatever situation he's in is just to kill his whole family," Gann said.
It's a question the Limestone County Sheriff's Office can't answer right now.
A Huntsville defense attorney, Bruce Gardner, said it's unclear who will be appointed as the teen's attorney. However, he has an idea what might come first in the case.
"The optimum result for any attorney to keep a five-person homicide in juvenile court, I really doubt that's going to happen, but that would be a major victory, yeah," he said.
That's because the harshest sentence in juvenile court would be for the suspect to be held until their 21st birthday. In adult court, the rules change. While teens can't be sentenced to death, they can be given life without parole.
A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, based on a case in Alabama, said teens can receive life without parole if the crime is harsh. The sentence isn't mandatory, meaning a judge has the option of giving life with parole.
"A juvenile is entitled to at least a hearing on whether or not life without parole or some other sentence is an appropriate sentence," Gardner added.
As long as Sisk's case stays in juvenile court, all hearings and documents related to the legal process will be sealed. If he's charged as an adult, all of that information becomes public record.
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