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After arrest of teen in Carlsbad homicide, prosecutors to weigh charging decision

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Posted at 4:29 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 08:57:05-05

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) - After Monday's arrest in the death of a Carlsbad woman found on a hiking trail, prosecutors must now decide whether to charge the teenage suspect as an adult.

A 17-year-old teen from Carlsbad was booked on murder charges weeks after Lisa Thorborg, 68, was found stabbed to death along Hosp Grove Trail.

Investigators tell ABC 10News police work led them to the teenager, before DNA evidence confirmed their suspicions. Former District Attorney turned criminal defense attorney Paul Pfingst says prosecutors must now decide whether the accused should be tried as an adult.

"An adult for a first-degree murder case can receive a 25 years-to-life sentence. A juvenile can only be kept until the age of 25," said Pfingst.

A decade ago, Pfingst represented Heather D'Aoust. At the age of 14, she killed her mother with a claw hammer. D'Aoust was charged as an adult, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 16 years to life.

Pfingst says unlike in that case -- thanks to new state laws -- if prosecutors do charge the 17-year-old as an adult in the Carlsbad case, a judge will have the final say.

"The more dangerous that person is, they most likely they are to be charged as an adult," said Pfingst.

Pfingst says the biggest factor is the crime itself.

"Is the act is such that it demonstrates such a wanton disregard for life and for people around them that the person needs too be confined?" said Pfingst.

Pfingst says the background of the suspect will heavily scrutinized.

"Including whether they've been involved with gang activity, prior acts of violence, prior acts of rebellion," said Pfingst.

Police in the Carlsbad case declined to say if the teen has a criminal history. Pfingst says the extensive background check is likely underway as prosecutors weigh their decision.

"What does the protection of community protection require? Longer incarceration or does it require juvenile attempts at rehabilitation?" said Pfingst.

A detention is scheduled for Thursday in juvenile court.