Boys Next Door

13-Year-Olds Charged With Murder Talk Exclusively To <B><I>60 Minutes II</B></I>

On Feb. 15, 2003, Craig Sorger, 13, was found murdered.

It was a chilling crime. He had been beaten and stabbed. The small town of Ephrata, Wash., was stunned when his two 12-year-old playmates were arrested and charged with his murder.

Despite their age, the judge decided they should be tried as adults, saying that, if guilty, the crime was so gruesome he doubted rehabilitation in the juvenile system was possible – and the community needed to be protected.

Evan Savoie and Jake Eakin are now among the youngest murder defendants ever to be tried as adults, but the two boys continue to insist they're innocent.

The boys hadn't spoken publicly until they sat down with Correspondent Vicki Mabrey last year.

When 60 Minutes II met Jake Eakin, he was small for his age -- 4 foot 10 inches, and 75 pounds. He turned 13 behind bars in November 2003, in the Grant County Youth Services Detention Center.

"I know I'm a kid," says Jake, who admits he's not ready to handle the courts and judges as an adult.

Evan Savoie, then 13, was Jake's best friend and also his co-defendant. He's grown 5 inches and gained 25 pounds since being locked up 14 months earlier.

"I was a lot shorter then, and it [my voice] was kind of girly," says Evan, who adds that he and Jake are the youngest kids in the detention center and the ones accused of committing the most serious crime.

So how did two boys just out of elementary school wind up charged with first-degree murder? It all began the afternoon of Feb. 15, 2003, when Lisa Sorger was home with her two sons.

"There was a knock on the door. And I answered the door. And there were two boys in hooded sweatshirts that asked if Craig could come out and play," recalls Lisa Sorger.

It was the first time Evan and Jake had knocked on Craig's door. Craig was considered learning disabled and he had once been diagnosed as slightly autistic.

"Craig, of course, heard, because he was sitting right there. And he goes, 'Oh, yes, Mom. Can I go out and play please? Can I go out?' And I said OK. And he said, 'Thanks, Mom,' and gave me a hug and a kiss, and went out the door," says Lisa. "No one really came over and asked him to play."

As night fell, Lisa began to worry. Craig was terrified of the dark and would never stay out past dusk. When she discovered that Evan and Jake had returned home hours earlier, she called police who began searching the park where the boys had played.

Then, Lisa discovered that Craig had been found on one of the trails. "I touched him, and I said, 'He's still warm,'" recalls Lisa. "And they said, 'That's because he was rolled over into the leaves, and the leaves had retained his body heat.' I knew he wasn't alive."

When police questioned the boys that night, they said they'd been climbing trees and playing tag. They'd last seen Craig heading home around 4:30 p.m.

During the questioning, Evan's mother, Holly Parent, noticed her son had changed his shoes.

"The next morning I got up and went into the bathroom, picking up laundry. And I found his shoes on the bathroom floor. And they were wet. And so that's when I brought them out," says Holly. "And I said, 'What actually happened?' And then that's when he said, 'I gotta talk to you in the bedroom.'"

In the bedroom, Evan told his stepfather, Andy Parent, a different story. He said Craig had fallen while climbing a tree. Evan said that while checking for a pulse and a heartbeat, he got Craig's blood all over him. He was afraid of getting in trouble, he said, so he jumped in a nearby pond to wash off the blood and buried his sweatshirt in the water. His mother called police in tears and brought them his shoes.

"You try to raise them to be honest and tell the truth. But when they're in shock like that, they just saw their friend fall," says Holly. "He's got blood coming out the back of his head. They were scared."

When police questioned Jake again, he also said that Craig fell from a tree, but in his version, he and Evan were on the branch with Craig at the time of the accident. Then, the autopsy came in.

"He had been beaten, I believe they said approximately 16 times to the head and neck," says Lisa. "And he had been stabbed 34 times in the head and neck. And he had eight stab wounds to his torso."

Although they said they are innocent, Evan and Jake were charged with first-degree murder and were each being held on $1 million bail. DNA testing on the sweatshirt pulled from the pond was inconclusive, but Craig's blood was found on Evan's T-shirt. Both families insist that someone else must have come along and stabbed Craig after he fell from the tree.

But Jake changed his story again to say he was getting sodas when Craig fell, even though small amounts of Craig's blood were found on his jacket. His mother, Tammy Vickery, says if he were guilty, there would have been more: "If somebody's been stabbed 34 times, and then beat with a stick 16 times, you're going to have more than one speck of blood on you … Deep down in my heart, my son, I know he's innocent."

Lawyers for both boys let them talk to 60 Minutes II, but not about the details of that day.

Does Evan believe he deserves to be incarcerated? "I don't think so, no. But as you can tell, quite a few other people have different opinions. So my opinion is no," says Evan.

And does he understand the charges he now faces? "I know it's a really high charge, I mean the highest, unless you go and do something to the president," says Evan. "Things could get really ugly, doing time in jail or prison. This ain't quite as bad as prison. But I don't like it, but see I haven't been found guilty yet or innocent or whatever. I haven't had my trial yet."

What they don't seem to have is a motive. Why would these two 12-year-old boys do something so horrible?

By most accounts, the two boys, who were family friends, got in only minor trouble at school. They weren't obsessed with violent video games or movies. But Jake, who was sometimes picked on because of his size, couldn't read and was in special education classes.

Jake describes himself as a good kid: "I talked a little bit ... I was pretty friendly."

Evan was the class clown and popular at school. He was the one who met Craig first and introduced him to Jake, even though they had only played together a few times. By most accounts, Evan was the leader in their friendship.

"He's pretty cool, actually. We could talk about anything we really wanted to, you know. You wouldn't be shy about talking to him about it," says Jake, who calls Evan his best friend. "To one of your other friends you would try to act like you were actually bigger. You didn't have to act like that to Evan."

"[Jake's] not really [my] best friend. I think one step lower. I call him my step-friend," explains Evan. "I don't know why, I just made up the name step-friend. So that's what I call him."

When 60 Minutes II met with the boys, they supported each other in the face of the prosecution. But as police and neighbors tried to understand what had happened, they were haunted by a simple question: If they're guilty, then why would they do such a thing?

Forensic psychologist Eric Johnson spent hours interviewing them for the state. He found that the boys weren't psychopaths, and didn't have major behavioral or emotional problems.

"They look like little boys, they act like little boys. They're actually described as being nice, polite. Kids that have friends that, like other people, that relate well to their families," says Johnson.

"It's rare, it's very unusual. But it happens. There are cases of other kids, other instances of very unexplainable violent behavior. They're trying to understand violence. They're trying to decide how they feel about violence, if they're capable of violence."

Police found something disturbing in Jake's sixth-grade journal, on a page so riddled with misspellings that it's barely legible. Jake named the book "Sniper" after the Washington, D.C., area shooters, and said they were his "idols" because "the sniper killed 13 people and they couldn't find out who it was."

"We believe we have the right persons in custody and the right persons charged," says prosecutor Ed Owens, who told60 Minutes II the boys should be tried as adults because of the violent nature of the crime – and the vulnerability of the victim.

The crime, however, wasn't reason enough for Johnson, the prosecution's expert, who went against the state and recommended that, based on their psychological profiles, Evan and Jake should remain in the juvenile system. This way, if the boys were found guilty, they'd get treatment until their release at 21.

If the boys are found guilty, and they targeted a child who was a little bit different, then why wouldn't Johnson want to lock them away for as long as possible?

"That's obviously not my job to decide. But I do think that we need to decide as a society what we're going to do. Are there ever occasions where kids can make a mistake and be given another chance? Is there ever a violent crime where a child can learn from it? Profit from experience and treatment, and still lead a productive life?" asks Johnson.

"There's reason to believe that the answer is yes to all those questions. And my opinion was, these kids had a chance to make it. A really good chance of making it in the juvenile system."

Last year, when the judge ruled that Evan and Jake would be tried as adults, he said that, if guilty, rehabilitation in the juvenile system seemed unlikely, and the public should be protected.

Have the boys added up the years they may end up spending behind bars? "Well, my lawyer told me it could be 30-35 years," says Evan.

How old would they be then, when they got out of jail? "48," says Jake, who can't imagine being that age. "My dad's not even that old."

Since the boys have no prior convictions, their sentence would likely be 20-26 years, if they are found guilty in adult court. This spring, they ran out of appeals. Their case will remain in adult court.

"There are people who think – as young as you are – you definitely should not be tried as an adult," Mabrey tells Evan. "What do you say?"

"I would give an honest opinion. If a person any age could commit that kind of crime, then I'm almost positive, I think they should be charged as an adult. But since I know I didn't, so I shouldn't," says Evan.

"…Anyone who is able to commit murder has to be a little odd in the head, I guess you could say, like [Ted] Bundy, the serial killer. Yeah. He's a little odd. I know this is only one person and one person isn't a serial killer. But still, anyone can do it once, they can do it again. And I think they should be locked up for as long as they could."

A few weeks ago, Jake Eakin changed his story. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder by complicity and agreed to testify that Evan Savoie killed Craig Sorger when Savoie goes to trial in November. Eakin was sentenced to 14 years in prison.