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A judge orders the release of Samantha Broadhead

CLEARWATER

A judge this afternoon ordered the release of Samantha Broadhead, the 11-year-old girl accused of trying to kill her mother by setting her bed on fire in Clearwater. Broadhead will be in the custody of an aunt in Polk County, said Pinellas circuit judge Jack Day.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office has filed a petition charging the girl with attempted murder. The office also plans to file a petition against her boyfriend, Jack Ault, 15, with the same charge, said Assistant State Attorney Joe Walker.

The two are being prosecuted as juveniles, not adults, Walker said. The pair was taken into custody Dec. 29. In court, Walker said the victim, Nancy Broadhead, asked that her daughter not be prosecuted as an adult.

At the end of the court hearing, Nancy Broadhead said, “Hey Sam,” to which the girl, before she was lead away, turned around. “I love you,” her mother said to her. Before Samantha is released to her aunt, Linda, who lives in Lakeland, some issues involving her psychiatric treatment, including medication, have to be resolved. Roger Futerman, the girl’s attorney, said outside court that he expects those issues to be resolved by tomorrow.

Before Day issued his ruling, Walker, the prosecutor, asked that the girl continue to be held under the 21-day rule, which prohibits holding a juvenile longer than that period unless there is a hearing. In Samantha Broadhead’s case, that period would have run out Jan. 23.

Futerman, in contrast, wanted the girl released immediately to her aunt. Walker also wanted the case to be set for trial before her anticipated release date of Jan. 23, but Judge Day said he didn’t believe that would give Futerman enough time to prepare for a trial that involves some 35 witnesses. Day likened the proposition to dancing Swan Lake on one leg.

Walker countered that Futerman could ask for a continuance if he wasn’t ready for trial. One reason Walker didn’t want Samantha Broadhead released is that he considers her a danger to herself and the community. He said he wanted the case tried – and certain services to be put in place – before her release.

“Samantha has demonstrated she’s a danger,” Walker said. “Samantha should not be in this community.”"I recommend strongly to the court not to release her,” Walker said. “She is charged with attempted murder of her mother by fire. She admitted to pouring gasoline outside her bedroom. She was the one who developed this plan. She got help, she followed through with the plan.”

But a social service agency involved in home placements – along with a court psychologist – said that the girl staying with her aunt was a viable plan. Walker said that among the witnesses, a state fire marshal is expected to testify the gasoline was poured around and on Nancy Broadhead’s bed. The woman also smelled of gasoline when she arrived at a hospital.

As a condition of her release, Samantha is not to have any contact with her mother or the witnesses, some of whom are friends of hers. Day said to the girl: “No phone. No e-mail. No twitter.”

The next hearing in the case is set for Jan. 20