Chief spokesman T.J. Smith and Maj. Chris Jones, head of homicide, announces charges against a 14-year-old in the murder and rape of an elderly woman. Still via Facebook Live.

A 14-year-old boy has been charged as an adult in the murder and sexual assault last week of an 83-year-old woman, Dorothy Mae Neal.

Neal was attacked in her home on the 2300 block of Winchester Street in the Bridgeview/Greenlawn neighborhood on Aug. 29. Neighbors had called police concerned about Neal’s well-being after not seeing her for several days. Officers arrived at Neal’s apartment and found her “unresponsive and the victim of an apparent assault,” police said in a release. Neal died the next day.

Court records show the boy has received eight charges, including counts of first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree rape, first- and second-degree assault and other sex offense charges. Baltimore Fishbowl is not publishing the suspect’s name because he is still a juvenile, even though he is being charged as an adult.

Chief police spokesman T.J. Smith said at a press conference this morning that state law automatically charges children as young as 14 as adults if they commit crimes like first-degree murder or first-degree rape.

A specific passage of state law says that juvenile courts do not have jurisdiction over: “A child at least 14 years old alleged to have done an act which, if committed by an adult, would be a crime punishable by life imprisonment…”

As they advance toward adulthood, teens can be charged with an increasing number of “significant violent crimes,” Smith said. The suspect had just turned 14 in August, according to court records.

Physical evidence left at the scene led police to charging the suspect, who lived a block away from Neal’s residence, court records show. Neighbors helped Neal with various tasks, and Smith said investigators believe the 14-year-old may have gained entry into her residence by helping with chores.

While it’s never easy to announce a murder or an arrest, Smith said the suspect’s young age was especially troubling.

“It’s sad all the way around, because there’s some systematic failure in a 14-year-old’s life to allow us to have to be up here talking about him being accused of murder and rape,” he said.

Court records also show the boy was charged as an adult with armed robbery when he was 13 in December of last year, but a judge withdrew the warrant in January.

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...