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Psychologists say Pierre teen murder suspect has underdeveloped brain

PIERRE (AP) — A Pierre teenager accused of shooting and killing a classmate likely has an underdeveloped brain that impairs his ability to think clearly, according to psychologists who evaluated him.

Braiden McCahren, 17, should be in a facility where he can receive psychiatric treatment such as the State Treatment and Rehabilitation Academy in Custer, said Rod Swenson, a clinical neuropsychologist from Fargo, N.D., and Thomas Price, a Sioux Falls forensic psychologist.

However, Price also acknowledged in court Thursday that finding a program for McCahren would become more problematic when he turns 18 next June.

McCahren has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the Dec. 18, 2012, shooting death of 16-year-old Dalton Williams at McCahren's home. A hearing is being held on whether McCahren's case should remain in adult court — where he's scheduled for trial next month — or be moved to juvenile court.

McCahren is accused of shooting Williams with a shotgun after first pointing the weapon at another 16-year-old male following an argument about a paintball game. The 16-year-old testified Thursday during the first day of the two-day hearing that he was unsure whether the shooting was accidental.

Swenson testified that McCahren suffered head trauma and heat stroke years ago, possibly leading to his difficulties with attention disorder, impulsiveness and not clearly thinking about or evaluating consequences.

"He can't put the brakes on to stop and think; he just goes," Swenson said.

Prosecutor Michael Moore had Price read school and police reports showing McCahren has had a high number of violent episodes in the past. Both Swenson and Price testified that those incidents would indicate a pattern of violence in a normal youth, but to someone with McCahren's condition it was merely impulsiveness from an underdeveloped mind.

The prosecution was scheduled to call 15 witnesses on Friday.

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