OSAGE — Noah Crooks appeared to be “logical, coherent and goal-directed” before, during and after he allegedly shot his mother, Gretchen Crooks, on March 24 in the family’s rural Osage home.
Judge Gregg R. Rosenbladt, in his ruling Wednesday to waive the 14-year-old to youthful offender status, cited evaluations that indicated Crooks could not be rehabilitated by the time he was 18 years of age.
“ ... The waiver of Noah Riley Crooks to District Court under the youthful offender waiver status presents the most options to both the Juvenile Court and the District Court to rehabilitate the defendant, protect society, and then offers maximum protection to the community,” Rosenbladt wrote.
Classifying Crooks as a youthful offender means he will be tried in district court and face charges of first-degree murder, a Class A felony; and first-degree assault with the intent to commit sexual abuse, a Class C felony.
No trial date has been set. Crooks remains in a Waterloo detention center.
Court documents described the-then 13-year-old as a teenager with “no immediate provocation for the shooting,” who shot his mother while she was sitting on the couch, working on a computer in the family’s living room.
The teenager, according to documents, shot his mother 21 times with a semi-automatic rifle from a distance of 15 feet. Her body was found in the living room. According to court records, Crooks professed the intent to commit sexual abuse but the act was not completed.
Crooks, an eighth grader at Osage Middle School, had not had any involvement with Juvenile Court Services or law enforcement prior to March 24.
While in the fourth and fifth grade, he displayed some anxiety, and was placed on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He also had two incidents on his school bus which resulted in a disciplinary action by school staff.
“Overall, the record shows that while having some disciplinary problems ... Noah Crooks had no prior formal involvement with juvenile authorities. Efforts to treat or rehabilitate his behaviors were addressed by his parents and school staff,” and no others, Rosenbladt said.
Rosenbladt said three issues needed to be satisfied in order to waive Crooks to youthful offender status. First, he had to be the proper age — 15 or younger — and, second, probable cause had to be determined.
Third, a determination must be reached that there would not be reasonable prospects for rehabilitating Crooks by his 18th birthday, if the juvenile court retained jurisdiction over him.
All three were reached, he said.
Psychiatrist Michael Taylor of Cumming, who interviewed Crooks, said the teenager’s actions “were part and parcel of deeply ingrained personality traits which have been present for years, despite his relative youth, and will continue to be present for the foreseeable future.”
“With a strong degree of medical certainty, I can state that the prospects for rehabilitating Noah Crooks prior to his 18th birthday are nil. He has no psychiatric illness (which had any impact on his actions) which might be treated ...”
Psychologist Anna Salter of Madison, Wis., who reviewed the interview and other documents, agreed.
“It (the shooting) was not done in the heat of the moment ... there are no indications that he was psychotic or even upset at the time of the shooting and finally, he has a series of personality traits that are very difficult to treat.
“I do not believe that at present there is any way to treat a lack of conscience, a total lack of empathy and extreme callousness. I am pessimistic about the chance that any treatment program can claim to successfully treat these traits even with a much longer frame of time.”
During the hearing, the defense objected to Crooks’ comments to Taylor being part of the record. The objection cited his Fifth Amendment rights.
Rosenbladt said his ruling did not take into account any responses made by Crooks to Taylor during Taylor’s interview with the teen, adding the court was “comfortable that it is able to consider their (Salter and Taylor) evaluations for the basis of determining Noah Crooks’ potential for rehabilitation without relying on his specific statements.”
Crooks’ attorneys have filed their intention to mount an insanity or diminished capacity defense.
Crooks is being represented by West Des Moines attorneys William Kutmus and Trevor Hook. The state is being represented by Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Denise Timmins.