By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.
HART — Three 14-year-old Hesperia boys currently lodged in the Ottawa County Juvenile Detention Facility face charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, kidnapping and rape, all of which carry maximum life sentences.
Despite their age, two of the boys are currently facing charges in 27th Circuit Court due to the seriousness of the alleged crimes and are being prosecuted as adults. The case against one of the boys, who is described by Oceana County Prosecutor Joe Bizon as “the least culpable,” has been transferred to Oceana County Juvenile Court. The boy appeared in 27th Circuit Court Monday, May 11, for a pretrial hearing, and his case was transferred back to juvenile court.
The other two boys, however, are currently facing charges as adults.
Hunter Ward faces charges of conspiracy to commit homicide or first-degree murder; conspiracy to commit kidnapping; conspiracy to commit first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC); and two counts of receiving and concealing weapons. Branden Donald Dennis faces charges of conspiracy to commit homicide or first-degree murder; conspiracy to commit kidnapping; and conspiracy to commit first-degree CSC.
The boy who was transferred back to juvenile court faces the same three conspiracy charges.
All of the conspiracy charges carry maximum life sentences, and the weapons charges carry a 10-year maximum penalty.
“It appears there was a sleepover,” Bizon said, when the boys “concocted a plan to do something to a 14-year-old girl.” The plan was never carried out, he said, and the victim was never harmed. They went to the victim’s house in the middle of the night last February, Bizon said, but they became “frustrated by her family dog.”
Word of their plan spread around school, he said. “Things were being talked about,” the prosecutor said. “They agreed among themselves to do this. This goes beyond teenage shenanigans of boys being boys.”
Dennis faces an additional count of third-degree CSC stemming from an alleged sexual assault on a 14-year-old boy who was at the sleepover, Bizon said.
Both Dennis and Ward are scheduled for pretrial hearings in circuit court Wednesday, May 27, at 9 a.m.