RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A 10-year-old Riverside boy charged with fatally shooting his father, local neo-Nazi leader Jeffrey R. Hall, had past problems with aggression and violence after being caught in the middle of a bitter divorce fraught with abuse allegations, court records show.
Legal experts said it was extraordinarily rare for such a young person to face a murder charge, and legal barriers prohibit detectives and prosecutors from discussing a juvenile case.
Investigators said the boy apparently retrieved a family handgun and shot his father about 4 a.m. Sunday on the living room couch. Police declined to say whether Hall was asleep at the time.
"We believe it was an intentional act," said Riverside police Lt. Ed. Blevins, "and we believe the 10-year-old was responsible."
Detectives "received some statements" about a possible motive, Blevins said, but declined to elaborate because the underlying cause of the attack is still under investigation.
There were no reports of an argument or other incident preceding the shooting, and police have never responded to any domestic disturbance calls at the Hall residence, Blevins said. Hall, 32, and his wife have five children, with the two oldest from Hall's previous marriage.
"Motive is the big question," Blevins said.
The boy is scheduled to appear before a Riverside County Juvenile Court judge Wednesday morning for a detention hearing. Both Blevins and the Riverside County district attorney's office declined to identify the boy, citing legal protections for juveniles.
"Anyone killing a parent is rare. Anyone at that age killing their parent is extremely rare," said Paolo Annino, a professor at the Florida State University School of Law and an expert in juveniles charged as adults. "These are cases our judicial system is not very good at. We usually don't want to hear why this happened."
Hall was the Southwest leader of the National Socialist Movement, the nation's largest neo-Nazi organization, and would often take his children to events, a colleague in the organization said.
The group most recently has targeted illegal immigrants, and Hall and other members had conducted their own patrols along the Mexican border. Hall also made headlines last year when he ran successfully for the local water board, the Western Municipal Water District.
The accused boy's biological mother, Leticia Neal of Spokane, Wash., on Tuesday said she had been pleading with the courts to grant her custody of their 10-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter after learning about her ex-husband's neo-Nazi ties. Neal, during the divorce proceedings nearly a decade ago, accused Hall of abusing their two children, but the charges were never substantiated.
"All I can tell you is that I begged and begged them to please let me have full custody," Neal said.
Court records show that Hall had been granted full custody of his two children during their divorce. He had accused his ex-wife of abusing and neglecting their son and daughter during custody visits. But a Sept. 19, 2002, child protective services report filed in court stated that those allegations could not be substantiated.
Neal denied the allegations during the court proceeding, and she declined to comment on the matter Tuesday.
In January 2011, a Riverside County judge upheld Hall's full custody of the children, barring Neal from visiting the children. But Neal and her children were allowed to start undergoing reunification therapy.
In a Nov. 8 court filing opposing Neal's request, Hall stated that his son and daughter had not seen Neal for more than six years, and "not so much as received a phone call, card, birthday present" from their mother during that time. Hall also described his son's troubled past, saying he was just getting back on track.
His son "was removed from several schools for his wild and sometimes violent actions. Both (children) ... struggled socially and academically when they were first placed with me," Hall stated.
The family's house, where Hall would often invite fellow neo-Nazis for gatherings, is on a well-trimmed cul-de-sac near the University of California-Riverside. A security camera on the second story monitors the front yard and driveway.
Jason Hiecke of New Jersey, a lieutenant in the National Socialist Movement who knew Hall, described him as a dedicated family man who would occasionally bring his young children to the group's events.
"The death of any member, especially somebody of his standards and high quality to the party, is always a loss," Hiecke said.