Because there was not a single murder in Columbia County, Florida, last year, it was shock to everyone in the area when news broke earlier this week that a 15-year-old girl had allegedly shot and killed her 16-year-old brother in their White Springs home.
But police are now saying that the events that led up to the alleged crime might be just as shocking.
The Associated Press reports that the 15-year-old suspect in the shooting has told police she suffered years of abuse, including being locked in a room with nothing but a blanket and a bucket to use as a toilet.
Police believe the 15-year-old girl, who is not being named in most news reports, shot her brother, Damien Kornegay, Monday night after escaping from that room.
The girl’s father, Keith Kornegay, 37, is a truck driver who is said to have often left the house for days at a time. Police said the girl’s mother Misty Kornegay, 33, often accompanied the dad, leaving the two teenagers alone with their two younger sisters, who are 11 and 3.
Police said that sometime Monday the brother locked his oldest sister in the room but she escaped with the help of the 11-year-old.
Police told USA Today the older sister then went to her parent’s bedroom where she knew they kept a 9mm pistol. Police believe the 11-year-old acted as a lookout while her older sister retrieved and loaded the gun.
The 15-year-old then shot her brother while he was sleeping on the couch, police stated.
The two older girls then left the house, leaving behind their dead or dying brother and their 3-year-old sister, police say.
White Springs police picked up the two older sisters outside a nearby Dollar General store after receiving a tip from a family friend that the girls might have run away from home.
Police said it was outside that store where the girl broke down and said she had been badly beaten and locked in a room by her brother. The girl is said to have admitted to shooting her brother at that time. She said her parents were out of town and not expected to return until Tuesday.
Columbia County sheriff’s deputies, who were asked by the police to check the home, reported finding Damien Kornegay dead in the living room. The suspected murder weapon was found in the hallway.
Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter said Wednesday that everyone is shocked by the crime.
“We don't have this in our community,” Hunter said. “This is the stuff nightmares are made of.”
“For our community to have this, there's going to be 100,000 whys,” he added later.
The two oldest girls have been arrested on suspicion of murder. They are being held in juvenile detention and prosecutors are trying to determine if they should be tried as adults.
The 3-year-old sister is in the custody of child welfare officials.
Police also arrested both parents.
Police say the mother admitted to occasionally locking the oldest girl in her room when she misbehaved. She reportedly said the girl once spent 20 consecutive days locked up.
The parents have been charged with child neglect causing great bodily harm and are accused of failing to properly supervise their children. A judge set their bond at $20,000 each Wednesday and told them they could not have unsupervised contact with their children.
Photo Credit: Yearbook photo via USA Today, Columbia County (Florida) Sheriff's Office