Three Mississippi teenagers could face life in prison after police charged them as adults in the death of a 70-year-old man.
Though Mississippi law dictates that those convicted of capital murder must be sentenced to either death or life in prison without parole, 13-year-old Quindaris Burress, 13-year-old Dequan M. Stribling and 14-year-old Jayce Bryson West are ineligible for the death penalty, due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring anyone under 18 from being sentenced to die, reports the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
"Under state law, they are considered adults and we treat them no differently than any other prisoner," said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson, according to the Daily Journal.
Johnson explained that the three suspects have been separated at the jail, but only because that is standard practice for people charged with the same crime.
Though minors accused of crimes are often tried in youth court, it is legal in Mississippi to charge anyone older than 13 as an adult.
"Any charge that carries up to life in prison, such as murder, that is automatically circuit court jurisdiction, regardless of age," explained Lee County Youth Court Judge Charles Brett. "It starts in circuit court, but they can have a hearing and have it sent back down to youth court."
Police arrested the teens on Nov. 3 after authorities found Henry Adams Jr., of Baldwyn, Mississippi, dead in what authorities believe was a robbery.
"It appears the shooting took place on Sunday afternoon," said Baldwyn police investigator Adam Cook. "The preliminary autopsy report says the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds to the left chest and right arm. The manner of death is listed as homicide."
Adams sold used cars out of his home for a living, so he reportedly kept large amounts of cash there. His wallet was found discarded outside the house.
According to an obituary released by Legacy.com, Adams was a kindly, trusting man who "would give the shirt off his back to help anyone." He began selling vehicles in 1978 after forming H&A Auto Sales with a friend to buy and sell tractors and tractor equipment before the business expanded.
"This is still an ongoing investigation," said Cook, according to the Daily Journal. "I don't want to release too many details because I want the grand jury to have an innocent eye. I want them to be able to look at the facts and make an unbiased decision."