Attorney: Teen accused of killing parents awaiting trial, family stands behind him

Friday, January 6, 2017
Local teen accused of killing his parents in jail awaiting trial
Local teen accused of killing his parents in jail awaiting trial.

HARRIS COUNTY (KTRK) -- One of the big questions in the case of a Bellaire-area teen charged with capital murder in the death of his parents, is whether or not he will be charged as an adult. The answer to that is a long way away.

His attorney, Rick DeToto, says the priority is getting his client out on bond. The teen was allowed to attend the funerals of his parents but that was the last time he's seen the outside world. He's been in Harris County Juvenile Detention for the last six months.

DeToto says he and his co-counsel visit their client every couple of weeks.

"We don't talk to him about the case," DeToto said. "We listen to him, tell him what's going on with his family and help him through the process."

Antonio and Dawn Armstrong were killed in their Bellaire-area home in July. Antonio Armstrong is a former college and NFL football player. The family is well-known and respected in the community.

Their son denies he killed them.

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"Smart, funny, courageous, athletic. One of the best young men I've ever met," DeToto said. "Like I said, I have not heard one person in the community say anything bad about him."

A new DA in Harris County means some information will have to be presented again. Defense attorneys have focused on obtaining surveillance video of a burglary that happened at the family's gym right after the murders and believe investigators should take a close look at who was involved in it.

DeToto added that a lot of information will come forward that he can't talk about right now.

"You have someone that's yanked out of a house, accused of killing his parents and aggressively interviewed by detectives, that can be daunting for a 16-year-old. Much less for an adult," said DeToto.

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Police say Antonio and Dawn Armstrong were shot in their Bellaire-area town home in July 2016.

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It's not the first time a teen has been accused of killing their own parents in Houston.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Bryan Sweeney is not involved in the Armstrong case but has worked on similar cases.

"I think people confuse murder with hate and a lot of these children who kill their parents, they don't hate their parents. Even afterwards they'll say that," Sweeney said.

He says in cases where children have been accused of killing their parents, prosecutors typically look at one of three scenarios: severe abuse, mental illness or a severe social issue.

"People can relate to 'well I've been severely beaten my whole life and I have no escape, so I have to protect myself,'" he said. "Some people can relate to severe mental illness. Basically you're crazy so you don't know what you're doing, people can't relate to 'well your life has always been good, why do you have to end someone else's life to get more.'"

He added with psychology today they are relying more on science to prove motives.

As for the Armstrong case, DeToto says the Armstrong family stands behind the teen's innocence. A jury's verdict on that is still a long road ahead.

"I think public perception will be swayed by the truth. The truth of who this young man is and who this family is," added DeToto.