Two North Florida sisters, ages 11 and 15, will be charged as juveniles in the slaying of their 16-year-old brother, authorities said Wednesday.
Third Circuit State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister said he made the decision not to charge the girls as adults after reviewing their histories in an abusive home, and taking into account that their parents are being charged with child neglect. He said he would file the charges Thursday.
“My ethical duty is to make sure justice is done in the case, and it certainly wouldn’t be just for 15-and-11-year-old children to face up to life in prison as an adult,” Siegmeister said.
The Jan. 5 shooting at a small white house in the former logging town of White Springs happened while the children were home alone while their parents were away on a truck-driving run.
Police say the 15-year-old sister was locked in her room that day by her brother after their parents had left. Documents show the girl was often locked away by her parents, sometimes for weeks at a time, with only a blanket, along with a bucket for a bathroom.
The reports say after the brother fell asleep, the girl was able to convince the younger sister to free her. The older sister then went outside and cut away the foam around an air conditioner so she could remove it and climb through the window of her parents’ locked bedroom to get a pistol, police said.
The napping boy was shot once in the neck, according to police reports, and died under a blanket, with his head on a pillow. The girls fled the house, leaving a 3-year-old sister with her dead brother.
Police say they found the two girls later that night, after the younger girl called a friend saying she needed a ride from a Dollar General store. The friend’s parent alerted police.
Documents show the eldest daughter suffered years of abuse at home, and that her parents had removed her from school.
The reports also show that the older girl had been sexually abused by an uncle years before the shooting, and that the uncle had been convicted and sent to prison.
The girls’ parents are in jail on charges of felony child neglect, and the 3-year-old is in the custody of child welfare officials.
The two girls are in juvenile detention facilities, and were facing the possibility of being charged as adults.
If convicted, the girls would be imprisoned until their 21st birthdays.
Siegmesiter said the parents could face harsher charges if the girls decide to cooperate.
Because of the girls’ ages and abuse allegations, The Associated Press is not naming anyone in the family.