Last week’s deadly altercation at The Great Frederick Fair may have started over $1, the state’s attorney’s office said Monday.
Two brothers charged in the assault that resulted in the death of 59-year-old John Weed, of Mount Airy, will be held at a juvenile detention facility in Montgomery County until they have separate hearings next month.
Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Julie Stevenson Solt made the ruling during a hearing at the Frederick County courthouse Monday afternoon.
Prosecutor Laura Wilt, with the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office, said Weed, the victim of the alleged assault, was harassed and followed by the two boys.
Both Wilt and Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said more charges are likely. Videos showed the two brothers planned ahead of the final punch, they said.
Defense attorney Christopher Kalotra argued the brothers did not have a history of violence and requested that they be released to the custody of their parents.
Wade Taylor, the father of the two teens, said during the hearing that his son who threw the final punch is “not an animal, and is not a violent person.”
Kalotra said neither of his clients realized the extent of Weed’s injuries when they were taken into custody, and both were upset when they learned he had died.
The names of the two teens charged were mentioned in court Monday, but the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s office declined to confirm the spellings.
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said in a press conference after the hearing that based on the preliminary investigation, the 16-year-old asked Weed for a dollar and then threw a punch to the back of the man’s head. There was some unknown conversation between the boys and Weed, Smith said.
At least a minute passed before the 15-year-old ran at Weed and threw the final punch, Smith said.
So far, the 15-year-old has been charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment, and the 16-year-old was charged with second-degree assault, The News-Post previously reported.
Smith said his office will pursue manslaughter charges, not first- or second-degree murder charges.
First- or second-degree murder charges require an intent to kill, Smith said.
“We see no facts in this particular case that would lead anyone to believe there was an intent to kill, an intent to murder the victim,” Smith said. “We do believe the facts that we have revealed, in concert with the detectives, warrant a charge of manslaughter, so we are going to pursue that at a later time.”
Earlier Monday, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said during an appearance on FOX 5 D.C. that “I certainly hope they consider [this case as a] hate crime,” as Weed was white and two teens are black.
“This was such a brutal, unprovoked attack. Not only the attack itself, but the fact that after the man was down, they spit on him repeatedly. I’m so disgusted, I’m angry, I’m upset for the family,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Smith said his office has not determined that any hate crime was committed, but investigators will continue to look into that claim.
“Right now, what we know, it was over a dollar bill, it was not over race,” Smith said.
On Sunday, Smith said he’d heard about multiple videos circulating around the internet and about the fact the “knockout game” — where someone punches an unsuspecting person to try and knock them out — might have been a part of the incident.
By Monday, he said there was no sign the attack was a version of the knockout game.
Wilt, chief juvenile attorney in the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s office, said during the hearing Monday, “This was a completely random act of violence.”
Smith also said it is not a crime if somebody records an assault. According to state law, there is no law requiring a bystander to call 911.
He added Weed’s family does not want to comment on the case at this time.
Meagan O’Clair, a Berkeley County, West Virginia, resident who grew up in Frederick County, started an online petition stating that unaccompanied minors should not be allowed into the fair without a parent accompanying them, unless they are a 4H/FFA member.
O’Clair said Monday that chaperones could qualify as the adult for students on field trips to the fair.
As of Monday evening, her petition had more than 3,000 signatures.
“There’s just plenty of recent events in the tri-state area that involved actions of minors and minors getting arrested,” O’Clair said. “I just feel like parents aren’t really held accountable ...I used to get dropped off at the fair growing up … now, compared to 15-20 years ago ... it’s just a different time that we live in.”
A GoFundMe account was also set up Monday in support of Weed’s family. As of Monday evening, the account raised more than $3,000.
According to the GoFundMe page, Weed “went to the Great Frederick County Fair to spend an evening of fun and laughter with his sister, his nieces, their loves [sic] ones and his great niece and nephew. … Late Saturday afternoon with his Mother, Father and sister by his side he passed away.”
The creator of the GoFundMe did not respond to a request for comment.
The state’s attorney’s office did not comment on autopsy results on the cause of death for Weed.
Hearings for both boys charged are scheduled for Oct. 22, a spokesman for the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s office said.