Children charged with girl's murder

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TWO BOYS aged seven and eight have been charged with the murder of an 11-year-old girl in a crime that has shocked Chicago.

The two are alleged to have killed Ryan Harris because they wanted her bicycle. Her body was found last month on waste ground, with pieces of clothing and vegetation stuffed into her mouth. She had been badly beaten with a brick and sexually assaulted. Initially, police questioned children the same age as the victim, but that led them to interrogate younger children. Both boys have implicated themselves in statements that they made to police, the authorities said.

Many in Chicago cannot believe that children so young could possibly have carried out the crime. They say that the girl's injuries could only have been inflicted by someone much older. Police are adamant that they have the right people and they say that the younger boy initiated the attack.

Though the children would be the youngest ever charged with murder, two years ago two boys aged 12 and 13 were jailed for dropping a five-year old boy from the 14th floor of a tower block, and were sent to youth prison.

Two Arkansas boys who opened fire on their classmates and a teacher will appear before a judge today. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 12, killed teacher Shannon Wright, and four other children. They are expected to be sentenced to imprisonment until they are 18, the maximum sentence available.