Mich. Man Who Killed at 11 Released

The Associated Press
Thursday, January 18, 2007; 1:03 PM

PONTIAC, Mich. -- Nathaniel Abraham, who lost his freedom as a child, is gaining it as a man. A judge released Abraham from all state supervision on Thursday, more than nine years after the then-11-year-old used a rifle to shoot and kill a man outside a Pontiac convenience store.

The 20-year-old man who stood before Oakland County Probate Judge Eugene Moore for his final status hearing on Thursday bore little resemblance to the scared boy whose feet couldn't touch the ground while he sat at the defense table during his 1999 murder trial.

Abraham, a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than he was at the time of his arrest, has been living in a halfway house in Bay City, 70 miles north of his family in Pontiac. It was in Pontiac that he was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1997 death of 18-year-old Ronnie Lee Greene. Though convicted as an adult, Abraham was sentenced as a juvenile by Moore.

"Show us all that you have become a caring, productive member of society," the judge told Abraham.

Abraham turns 21 on Friday and was expected to be released at that time, but Moore said Thursday that he would sign the release order. Daniel Bagdade, Abraham's attorney, confirmed that Moore had signed the order, and Abraham was a free man.

"I'm going to make the best of it," Abraham told Moore during the hearing.

Abraham was the first young person charged with murder to be prosecuted under a 1997 Michigan law that allowed adult prosecutions of children of any age in a serious felony case.

The case sparked debate on the treatment of juveniles accused of violent crimes.

Prosecutors at the time said Abraham had hidden the rifle, told people he intended to kill and voiced worry about gangs coming after him. The defense argued the shooting was accidental and that he was aiming at trees and not at Greene.

Abraham's release follows years in a maximum-security facility and a short stay at a medium-security camp. Opinions diverge on how much he's changed in that time.

For Oakland County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Deborah Carley and Greene's sister, Nichole Edwards, the remorse has been lacking and neither believes he has been fully rehabilitated.

Bagdade and Abraham's mother, Gloria Abraham-Holland, see a man who has earned a second chance, though they, too, know it will require the help of others.

During his years of lockup, social workers and prosecutors expressed concerns about Abraham's temper. He has been punished for mouthing off and threatening one of his counselors after being fouled during a basketball game, and has taken anger-management training.

But on Thursday, those who worked with Abraham during his time in state custody said he had worked hard at controlling his anger and expressed hope that he would make a success of his future.

"I know he can do it with the help of the Lord and the support of his family," Abraham-Holland said.

She said the family would gather Friday to celebrate her son's birthday.

Bagdade, who has represented Abraham since his arrest, said his client has an apartment in Bay City, where he plans to work in maintenance for a manufacturing company and attend classes at Delta College.

© 2007 The Associated Press