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Town shocked by teen's baseball bat slaying

Friend charged with murder as a juvenile, due in court Friday

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A 13-year-old is accused of beating a friend to death with a bat.
Los Angeles (California)

PALMDALE, California (CNN) -- A 13-year-old boy accused of fatally striking a 15-year-old friend with a bat after a youth baseball game was charged Thursday as a juvenile with murder, authorities said.

Under California law, children younger than 14 cannot be tried as adults. If convicted in juvenile court, the boy could face a sentence ranging from probation to confinement in a juvenile detention facility until he turns 25.

The suspect, whose name was being withheld because of his age, is to appear in juvenile court Friday.

He has been in custody since Tuesday, when authorities said he struck his friend, Jeremy Rourke, with the bat -- once in the knee and once in the head -- after an argument.

The killing has shocked the community of Palmdale, located about 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Several people, including parents and older children, witnessed the incident, which came as the Pony League games were wrapping up for the night.

Witnesses said the younger boy's team had just lost its first game of the season, and he was getting in line at a snack bar. Some witnesses said there was a dispute between the teens over their place in line; others said Rourke teased the suspect over the loss.

Tony Trevino, who coached the team that won the game in question, said he arrived moments afterward.

"When I came around to the snack bar, the first child that I came upon was the suspect. He was distraught, in shock," Trevino told CNN.

The boy was with his parents and no longer had the bat in his hand. Trevino said he then saw Rourke on the ground. Another coach was an off-duty police officer trying to bring order to the scene, Trevino said, and others tried to resuscitate Rourke, who died at the hospital.

"This is a story of two boys, one razzing the other [and] the other child not able to deal with the social situation that was presented to him at that time," Trevino said. "This is a good kid that made a bad decision. He was a good athlete, a good student."

Trevino wondered why none of the parents or older children intervened when the two youths were arguing: "How could that happen?"

The Pony League takes children of all ages and abilities. It is not considered an ultra-competitive league like some youth baseball organizations. The teens' league suspended all games after the incident.

The suspect was described as well-liked with no criminal record.

Rick Shade, a family friend of the Rourkes, said the victim's mother believes the suspect is a good boy.

"She made the comment that, by no means, was the kid a monster -- don't make him into it," he said. "He was a very good kid. They were friends, believe it or not."

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