Florida police say that a 15-year-old girl who is currently being detained for first-degree murder in the shooting death of her brother, 16, did so after suffering years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her family. According to documents made public on Wednesday, the girl’s uncle was found guilty in 2010 of molesting her. Also revealed in the papers is that the brother and sister were discovered having sex with each other by their mother. An investigation into the claim led to no charges being filed.
Law enforcement officials say that the children’s father is an over-the-road truck driver whose wife travels with him in his truck while their children are left home alone. It was during just such a trip that the 15-year-old Florida girl, using her younger sister, 11, as a lookout, got into her parents’ locked bedroom and retrieved a handgun. The 11-year-old sibling has also been charged with premeditated murder.
After shooting their brother on Monday night, both girls left the home on foot. Law enforcement officials were contacted by a friend of the sisters, who reported having received a strange phone call from the younger sister in which the girl said she had run away from home and needed somebody to meet her at the Dollar General store to pick her up. Upon arriving at the store, the friend found both girls waiting and notified Florida authorities.
Under questioning, the 15-year-old told an officer that she had shot her brother after he had beaten her, at which time the officer called the sheriff’s department. Upon arriving at the home, which is located in the rural northern Florida town of White Springs, law enforcement officials discovered the brother’s body, covered with a blanket and with a pillow under his head, dead from an apparent gunshot wound on the floor of the living room.
The girl later told detectives that she was frequently kept for weeks in a locked room of the home with only a bucket to use for a toilet and a blanket, and that she had been locked away by her brother on Monday. She was able to escape the room by persuading her 11-year-old sister to let her out, at which time the older sister took a knife outside and used it to remove the window air conditioner unit from her parent’s bedroom. While the younger girl watched, her sister climbed into the room and retrieved the parents’ handgun.
Upon going back inside, the older girl told both of her younger sisters to hide in a closet. She then looked away while firing the gun at her brother, who was asleep in the living room. Police say that according to the girl, her brother screamed for help. The 15-year-old girl says she hid her head in a pillow for some time before going into the living room, where her youngest sister, 3, was attempting to wake up the dead teen.
The 3-year-old has been placed in the custody of the state of Florida. The Department of Children and Families is working with police in order to find out what happened in the home when the teen boy was shot. Spokesman John Harrell said that the agency will also act to ensure the safety and well-being of all three surviving children. Due to Florida law, he was unable to provide any information on whether or not the department had prior dealings with the family.
Both girls are currently being held in juvenile detention. The parents have been charged with neglecting their children.
Florida State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister is still deciding whether the two sisters will be charged as adults. Guardian Liberty Voice does not name minors who have been charged with crimes and will not name the parents or other siblings due to the allegations of abuse. If the sisters are charged in juvenile court, they can be held for only 30 days. In this case, because the home environment is not a suitable place for the children, Siegmeister may have to file adult charges in order to keep them in detention until a safe place for them to go is found.
By Jennifer Pfalz