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Onawa teen to be tried for murder, sex abuse as adult

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ONAWA, Iowa -- An Onawa teenager charged with fatally shooting another teen and sexually assaulting several teenage girls will be prosecuted as an adult.

District Judge Duane Hoffmeyer on Thursday ruled that adult court services would provide better treatment and rehabilitation options for Jay Lee Neubaum than juvenile court.

"The distinguishing factor is the adult court provides an opportunity to impose consequences for a longer period of time than juvenile court," Hoffmeyer said in his ruling.

Neubaum, 17, is charged in Monona County District Court with first-degree murder and 10 counts of third-degree sexual abuse.

Public defender Laury Lau had requested Neubaum's cases be transferred to juvenile court. At a hearing earlier this month, she said Neubaum had begun counseling since his release from custody in April and could benefit from other juvenile court programs.

If Neubaum were adjudicated in juvenile court, the court's supervision would be limited to 18 months past his 18th birthday. Neubaum turns 18 on Dec. 21. Because of the seriousness of the charges and a growing backlog of trials delayed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Hoffmeyer said it was likely that the earliest either of Neubaum's cases would go to trial is in the spring of 2021, leaving "a small and shrinking window" for Neubaum to receive services and rehabilitation in the juvenile system.

A juvenile court officer's report filed in May had doubted that Neubaum could be rehabilitated in the short time juvenile court services would have jurisdiction over his cases and recommended they remain in district court.

Neubaum currently is scheduled to stand trial in August for first-degree murder for the Jan. 31 shooting death of 16-year-old Joseph Hopkins in Mapleton, Iowa. According to court documents, Neubaum became angry with Hopkins because he and another teen would not stop playing with an unloaded shotgun. Neubaum retrieved a loaded shotgun and fired a single shot, striking Hopkins in the head, court documents said.

Neubaum also is accused of raping six teenage girls and forcing sexual contact with a seventh. The alleged incidents with the girls, who ranged in age from 13 to 16, occurred in September, November, February and March in Mapleton.

Neubaum repeatedly denied the accusations during an interview with investigators.

If found guilty of first-degree murder, Neubaum would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. Each count of sexual abuse carries a 10-year prison sentence. But because he is a minor, Hoffmeyer said, the sentencing judge could have discretion to impose shorter sentences.

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The boys were transported to Lakes Regional Healthcare in Spirit Lake, where the 15-year-old was pronounced dead. The 14-year-old was treated and released.

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