Here’s why News 6 decided to name the 12-year-old accused in Marion County murders

2 boys arrested, third sought in triple homicide

OCALA, Fla. – Since last week, Central Florida has been following the case of three teens who were found shot to death in Marion County. In a story that has garnered national headlines, the question lingered, “Who was responsible for killing these teens?”

At a Friday news conference, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods announced that two boys, including a 12-year-old, were arrested on murder charges in the case. A third boy, who’s 16 years old, is wanted in connection to the homicides, Woods said.

News 6 has decided to name the 12-year-old, identified by Woods as Christopher Atkins, and show his mugshot.

Oftentimes, News 6 will not name minors or use their photos because of their age. However, due to the nature of the crime (three slain juveniles) and the charges (first-degree murder), we have decided -- in this case -- to name and show the suspects, including the 12-year-old.

After the news conference, News 6 interviewed Woods at a nearby event and asked him the specific role the 12-year-old had in the case.

“His involvement as far as I could tell you is that he shot the third victim, who was (found) in the trunk of the car,” Woods said.


Late last year, News 6 developed guidelines to provide better crime coverage, offering fairness, sensitivity and compassion to both sides of a story.

The responsibility we hold, and the weight of that responsibility, is not something to be taken lightly. By considering the implications of a story from all angles, we better ourselves, provide in-depth coverage and get results.

To understand part of our process reporting a crime story, here are some questions we consider:

  • Is there an immediate threat to public safety?
  • Is there a threat to children?
  • What community action is required?
  • Is this a crime story we will see to the end?
  • Do we have a good description?
  • What crime was actually committed?

After weighing all the factors currently known in the case, including Woods claiming that the 12-year-old fatally shot one of the victims and the fact that the boy was arrested on first-degree murder charges, News 6 decided to name the boy.

During the news conference, Woods said parents need to know if their children are in trouble.

“We do not hold our junior juveniles accountable. We minimize their actions,” he said. “Let me tell you why I say this. Last night, I had to stare into the eyes of two mothers. It’s not their fault. Because what I saw last night was two mothers who are willing to give their sons everything, do everything for them and give them their own lives. I cannot fathom what they were going through.”

Woods added that “mothers across this nation” need help.

“I heard one of them say, ‘I wish I would have known what this one was doing and who they were, because my kids never would have hung out with them,’” Woods said.