The two boys from Cromwell, Indiana — ages 12 and 15 — wanted to run away to Arizona, though police aren’t sure why. They plotted for a month to kill the 15-year-old’s stepfather, Phillip Danner, so they could use the family’s car for their trek…
While the older boy’s mom was vacationing in Florida, they swiped Danner’s guns and met at a park. Then they went to the family home and waited in the living to ambush the 49-year-old stepdad.
When he appeared in the doorway, they opened fire, hitting him in the eye, the arm, and twice in the chest. Then they took of in the 15-year-old’s mother’s car and headed toward Arizona. They didn’t get far. They were caught in Peru, Illinois early the next morning.
Police theorize that they were on their way to Arizona to sell weed as part of an unofficial pot smokers’ holiday. Though the theory seems a little bizarre — especially from small-town cops who have a tendency to point to drugs as the root of all evil — it’s hard to give kids this age too much credit for having a rational plot. Alcohol, weed and a gun was found in the car when they were caught.
The two boys were supposedly good students who hadn’t been in serious trouble before, though the 15-year-old was on juvenile probation for shooting his BB gun at a neighbor on a riding lawn mower. But there are no signs of abuse in the family, and Danner seemed to be a good father who reached out to his stepson. They went fishing and dirt biking together.
Two other boys were in on the plotting, but they didn’t take part in the murder. One, a 12-year-old, has been charged with abetting a murder. The other hasn’t been charged.
Meanwhile, the 15-year-old is facing murder charges in adult court.
See our last story about the murder of a parent: John Caudle, 14, Killed His Parents Because He Didn’t Like Doing Chores.