A 15-year-old Florida girl who police believe shot and killed her older brother will not serve any time in jail after pleading no contest to a single burglary charge Thursday.
The Associated Press reports Third Circuit State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister said he decided not to try the teen as an adult or pursue murder charges because the girl and her younger sister had suffered years of sexual, physical and mental abuse at the hands of family members.
The girl and her 11-year-old sister, neither of whom are being named because of the abuse allegations, were originally arrested Jan. 5 on suspicion of murdering their brother in their Lake City, Florida, home.
Police believe the elder sister shot and killed her 16-year-old brother after she escaped from a locked room where she had only a blanket and a bucket to use as a toilet. Authorities suspect the 15-year-old asked her younger sister to let her out of the room and then stand watch while she retrieved a gun from her parents’ bedroom. She then went to the living room and shot her brother while he was asleep on the couch, police say. Authorities say they believe the brother also abused the girls and was likely the one who locked the 15-year-old in the room.
The father of the children, who is a truck driver, was out of town for work at the time of the shooting and accompanied by the children’s mother.
As police investigated the family’s history, they say they uncovered evidence that the girls had suffered years of abuse.
According to the Daily Mail, one of the girls’ uncles had molested the elder sister. The uncle was convicted in 2010 on sex charges.
The oldest daughter was routinely locked in the room, for as long as 20 days at a time, police believe.
Siegmeister said that in light of the abuse the girls had endured, he saw no reason to pursue murder charges.
Both girls and their 3-year-old sister are currently in foster care.
Siegmeister announced Feb. 5 that the 11-year-old girl would not face any charges in the death of her brother, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
"This case is a tragedy to all those involved: the deceased, the two arrested children, as well as their 3-year-old sister who has been separated from them both," Siegmeister said recently, according to the AP. "Further incarceration ... serves no deterrent, rehabilitative nor other societal interest."
He said the burglary charge for the 15-year-old will result in a sentence of probation and counseling. The probation, which will last until her 19th birthday, is contingent upon her attending counseling and testifying truthfully in her parents' cases.
"This child has the best chance at a normal adult life by receiving the therapy and education she needs and residing in the setting of her current foster home," he said.
The girls’ parents have been arrested and charged with felony child neglect. They are currently out on bond and not allowed to see their daughters.
Photo Credit: Florida State Attorney’s Office, WikiCommons