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Hearing for Utah teen accused of killing stepfather

Published October 15, 2013 10:19 am

Preliminary hearing • 52-year-old victim died of gunshot wounds to the head.
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As Gina George knelt over her husband, slouched on the floor in a pool of his own blood, she called out to her 16-year-old son.

She asked him to fetch her a towel to stop the bleeding.

The boy ran into the next room and returned with a rag, the mother testified Tuesday. Hours later, he was hauled off to the West Valley City police station.

More than a year later, the teen sat in a 3rd District courtroom listening as prosecutors presented evidence in the case against him — Rosco Brackett, now 18, was charged as an adult with first-degree felony murder, and felony discharge of a firearm and obstructing justice for allegedly killing his stepfather and then hiding the gun and tossing a shirt he wore during the shooting.

Gina George, who recounted the moments before she realized her husband had been shot, smiled at her son as she took the witness stand.

She was the only other person home when her 52-year-old husband, James Michael George, was killed on Sept. 13, 2012. But she didn't see or hear what happened between her son and husband.

"I was in the bathroom the whole time — until I heard gunfire. Then I was in a panic," Gina George said. "I saw my husband's head toward the bathroom door, facedown in a puddle of blood."

Brackett told police that he and his stepfather had been arguing in their home, near 3700 South and 6800 West, about school and his efforts to obtain his GED. He changed his story twice, officers said. First stating he was in his room when his stepfather was shot, then saying he had pulled the trigger himself.

Brackett told police the two had been arguing when George lunged at him and then turned into the bedroom, where the family stored several firearms.

"He thought Jim was going to get his gun," testified West Valley City detective John Pittman. "So, [Rosco] went to retrieve a gun he knew was in the living room next to the front door."

He fired one warning shot over his stepfather's head, Brackett told the detective.

That's when James George allegedly wheeled around, exclaimed, "What the hell," and grabbed the boy. He hit him several times, Brackett told police, though officers were unable to find any bruising or marks on the boy's body.

James George suffered gunshot wounds to the head. He died the next morning in a hospital.

Family members of the victim testified Tuesday about the "strained" relationship between stepfather and stepson.

"At the beginning they had a good relationship," testified Anne Gilley, the victim's sister. "But it got a lot harder. ... [Brackett] told me, 'I just want you to know I'm very unhappy with your brother right now.' He said that about three weeks before he murdered my brother."

But Gina George, who had been married to the victim for eight years, said the man never liked her son. He saw him as "baggage."

She characterized her husband as controlling and demanding — a man who did not want her to work and refused to let her leave the house after he returned home for the evening.

At the time James George was killed, the woman said, she had been planning to leave with her son and return to her family in Missouri.

"I was done," Gina George said. "I asked [Rosco] if he wanted to come with me, and of course he did. ... I didn't have to tell him why. It was a small duplex. He heard the fights."

According to the mother, the family had more than 18 firearms in the home.

Brackett continues to be held in the Salt Lake County jail, with bail set at $1 million.

Prior to the Sept. 13 shooting, Brackett had only one run-in with the law, according to juvenile court records. He was referred to a juvenile court May 2010 for shoplifting less than $299 worth of property.

Brackett, a skinny teenager with unkempt brown hair and glasses, sat quietly Tuesday, listening to testimony.

The hearing was continued to January, when the court will hear from a medical examiner who performed the autopsy on James George and both sides will make closing arguments.

Judge Robin Reese will then decide if there is enough evidence to advance the case to trial.


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