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Judge: Billings murder case against 16-year-old will remain in District Court

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Posted at 8:46 AM, May 27, 2024

BILLINGS - The murder case against a 16-year-old boy whose actions were described by a judge as "deliberate, premeditated, and predatory" will remain in Yellowstone County District Court, where he will be tried as an adult.

In a ruling filed earlier this week, Judge Donald Harris said defense attorneys for Sidney Cruz DeCrane Jr. had failed to persuade him to send the case back to Youth Court. The judge wrote that the factors state law requires he weigh in making the decision - community protection, the nature of the offense, and the best interests of the youth - all fell in favor of keeping the murder case in district court.

"The Court finds that DeCrane's conduct was predatory and that he poses a significant danger to the community," the judge wrote in an eight-page ruling. "Based upon the evidence submitted at the transfer hearing, DeCrane is a gang member who concealed his identity with a ski mask, then stalked, ambushed, and executed a complete stranger who did nothing to provoke DeCrane."

The judge also noted that if convicted in youth court, DeCrane could be sentenced to Pine Hills, the state youth detention facility in Miles City, until age 18, for about 17 months. After he turned 18, he would be released into the community under the supervision of Youth Court Services until age 21, or possibly until age 25 under adult probation and parole.

"Because of his gang membership, minimal family support, 6th grade education, no significant work history, and no alcohol use disorder treatment, DeCrane will need to be closely supervised and receive substantial support when he is released into the community," the judge wrote.

DeCrane is charged with deliberate homicide for the shooting death last Oct. 28 of 18-year-old Chandler Stalcup, a standout athlete from Florida who was playing for the Rocky Mountain College football team. DeCrane is being held in youth detention on a $1.5 million bond.

A second teen, 17-year-old Garrett Jarvis Door, has been charged with deliberate homicide by accountability. Prosecutors allege he was driving the car involved in the fatal shooting. He is being tried as an adult.

The shooting happened at about 3 a.m. after a chance encounter between DeCrane, Door and Stalcup, who was among a group of friends who had arrived to retrieve a friend from a college house party on Avenue F. DeCrane and Door were not invited to the party and a confrontation earlier had resulted in them being kicked out of the house.

Instead of leaving, the teens put on ski masks and returned to the area where they encountered Stalcup and others as they arrived to pick up their friend. DeCrane fired numerous gunshots into the air, prosecutors said, and Stalcup and the others left the area but were followed by Door and DeCrane. Several blocks later, prosecutors allege DeCrane shot into the car driven by Stalcup and fatally struck him in the head.

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