The case against a boy charged at age 13 in the drug-related shooting death of a 32-year-old man was dismissed Wednesday after a juvenile court judge ruled prosecutors did not adequately prove the boy was involved in the killing.

The boy, who is now 14, had been implicated in the Aug. 11 slaying of Spencer Hebert at a North Foster Drive car wash with two other teenagers, aged 15 and 17. Those teens' cases have been transferred to adult court and remain ongoing. Because of 13-year-old's age at the time of the crime, his case remained in juvenile court. 

"The state has not proven the connection between (the juvenile) and that homicide," East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court Judge Pamela Johnson said. "We cannot speculate as to what happened."

The boy, of slight build, even for his age, sat with his parents and attorney during the trial, wearing a sweatshirt that had the name of a K-8 school on the front. He was never called to testify. Upon the judge's ruling, he hugged family and friends.  

Prosecutors showed surveillance video of the three teenagers, including the juvenile, walking to the area of the crime — a car wash bay where investigators found blood and at least one shell casing — then running from that area soon after Hebert emerged with a fatal injury. However, there was no video that showed the actual shooting. 

Hebert was shot twice, once in the chest and once in the back. 

Prosecutors had previously alleged the three teens approached Hebert to buy drugs from him, but that was not addressed at Wednesday's hearing. Investigators did say they found Hebert dead with a baggie of what was believed to be marijuana. 

Prosecutors asked Johnson to determine whether the juvenile was a principal to second-degree murder. Assistant District Attorney Courtney Myers argued the evidence showed the juvenile was present and aided in the killing.

However, the juvenile's defense attorney argued that without video showing the boy involved in the crime beyond being in the same area, it was simply "guilt by association."

"They have not shown ... specific intent to kill," argued attorney A. Hays Town III, the juvenile's attorney. "He is not guilty of anything other than being with his friends."

Johnson sided with Town, saying that prosecutors did not prove the juvenile's involvement in the crime beyond reasonable doubt, the necessary burden of proof. 

Town declined to comment after the decision on behalf of the juvenile's family. The Advocate does not typically identify juvenile defendants. 

Hebert's family members sat in the back of the court room during the hearing. When prosecutors showed images from the crime scene and autopsy, they became audibly upset, exhaling loudly. At one point, Hebert's sister stood and yelled that she needed to leave the courtroom. She did not return. 

However, Torina Hebert, another sister, stayed through the end. 

"I was looking for some good," Torina Hebert said after the hearing. "They let a potential murderer go. ... We're very disappointed."

She said she is hoping for a better outcome in the cases of the other two defendants to bring justice in her brother's death.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he does not believe this judge's ruling changes how they will approach the prosecution of the other two defendants, who are still awaiting trial in adult court.  

"I do not think it has any effect on the other two cases, but we respect her decision," Moore said Wednesday. 

The juvenile's two co-defendents, 15-year-old Gregory Howard IV and Tayan Jackson, 17, were indicted this month in adult court on charges of second-degree murder.


Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.