He looked like a typical 11-year-old boy — tow-headed, gray sweatshirt, khaki pants. He could have been waiting his turn in a spelling bee.

But Friday's setting was not a classroom. It was a courtroom, and the pint-sized middle-schooler sat shackled at the ankles.

He wouldn't leave that way.

A Jackson County Family Court judge dismissed a murder charge filed against the boy in the shooting death of his father. David Paul Champ, 52, a rough-talking scrap dealer, was shot and killed Aug. 2 in a ramshackle house the two shared in a working-class neighborhood in Independence.

Afterward, police sat the boy on a sidewalk step in front of the house. Tears ran down his dirty face.

On Friday in court, Jackson County Juvenile Officer Mary Marquez, who asked the judge to drop the charges, said the boy clearly had been severely and chronically neglected and he believed he "had no choice" when he shot his father. She did not elaborate.

Marquez told Judge Marco A. Roldan that she knew her motion to dismiss the murder charge was unusual.

"We usually ask you to adjudicate charges against a juvenile," Marquez said.

But this case was special, and her request had the support of every official in the courtroom as well as the Champ family, several of whom were present.

Roldan said he wasn't about to question such universal wisdom and ordered that the charge be dismissed.

The boy, one of the youngest ever to face a murder charge in Jackson County, did not react. As in an earlier hearing, he sat still and quiet, his attorney's arm around his shoulders.

Neighbors said despite the turmoil in the home, the boy loved his dad. He was about to start middle school when the shooting happened.

After Friday's hearing, the victim's brother, Al Champ, said the family was focused on helping the boy — "who we'd been close to since he was a couple of hours old" — to get a chance at a normal life.

Asked what his brother would think about dropping the charge against his son, Al Champ thought a moment.

"He would have been in favor of it," he said.

Family members and neighbors described the boy's father as a hothead and a loner, a single dad who tried to raise his son but didn't know how. A woman described him as "a troubled soul just trying to hang on."

After the shooting, the Independence Health Department posted a warning for people to stay out of the house at 1016 S. Woodland Ave. and said it had mold, raw sewage, dangerous wiring and holes in the floor.

Beginning in 2004 the city investigated numerous complaints related to vehicles being abandoned on the property, as well as trash and building maintenance issues.

David Champ had done three stints in prison, including a five-year stretch in the 1970s for assault with an intent to kill and auto theft, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

On Friday, Roldan let stand a child-in-need-of-care petition in the case, which means the boy is eligible for treatment and care through the juvenile court.

The boy's attorney, Megan Roth, later commended the family court for looking beyond the shooting to family dysfunction and conditions within the home.

"It really shows that the family court is about helping a child," Roth said.

She declined to answer questions about what is next for the boy. His mother reportedly lived out of state but had been present at an earlier hearing.

Roth would not elaborate on the boy's state of mind.

"Wouldn't you be sad if your father died?"

To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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