14-year-old murder suspect receives trial date

Alphonso James III

GOSHEN — A 14-year-old murder suspect told a judge Thursday he may hire an attorney out of money set aside for when he becomes an adult.

Alphonso James III, of Elkhart, is accused of killing Jaren Minies on Sept. 12, 2018. The 18-year-old was shot multiple times during an alleged deal to trade an XBox for a handgun.

James was arrested in July while in Ithaca, New York, where he was convicted in a violent assault. He was waived out of juvenile court during a hearing Aug. 16.

He appeared in Elkhart County Circuit Court Thursday to face the murder charge.

Judge Michael Christofeno entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and told him that he is accused of a crime that carries a prison term of up to 65 years.

He set James’s jury trial for Dec. 9.

The judge also asked the teenager what he plans to do about a lawyer.

James is currently represented by two attorneys from the Elkhart County Public Defender’s Office.

Juvenile Magistrate Deborah Domine had ordered that the office continue to represent him after his waiver.

James told Christofeno that his family plans to hire a private attorney. He indicated that they might use money that’s set aside in a bank account that he can’t access until he’s legally an adult.

“I can’t get it till I’m 18,” he told the judge.

He didn’t know how much money was in the account when Christofeno asked, but said he thought an aunt was in charge of it. James agreed to keep his public defenders until he could hire private counsel.

Christofeno tasked them with finding out more about the bank account and whether James could use the money.

One of his attorneys, Peter Soldato, said he didn’t know which bank it was with or who the custodian was, but he would do his best to find out.

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