Sisters accused of killing brother will be charged as juveniles

WHITE SPRINGS, Fla. - The Florida sisters who police say shot and killed their 16-year-old brother on January 5 will be charged as juveniles with second-degree murder, according to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

The 15-year-old and 11-year-old girls, who 48 Hours' Crimesider is not naming because of their age and the fact that at least one was a victim of sexual assault, were initially charged with first-degree murder.

According to the initial incident report, the girls' father is a truck driver and their parents left them alone with their brother and a 3-year-old sister while the mother accompanied the father on a trip. The 15-year-old told police that on the day of the shooting, her brother locked her in a room with just a blanket and a bucket to use as a toilet.

According to police, she said that while her brother slept, her younger sister helped her escape the room and the 15-year-old went outside and used a knife to cut the foam around the window air conditioning unit in the window of her parents' locked bedroom. In the bedroom, she told police, she found a handgun, loaded it, and then went into the living room where her brother was sleeping and shot him.

The arrest report says the girls then packed some things, put their 3-year-old sister in a bedroom, and walked to a nearby Dollar Store, where they called a friend, who later called police. The girls told them that the 15-year-old was routinely locked in the room her brother had kept her in.

The sisters' parents were arrested and charged with child neglect and according to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office are still behind bars. According to their arrest report, the mother told police the 15-year-old was locked in the room about four times a week, and the father said the longest she was locked up was 20 days. In a search of the house, police found notes written by the parents asking the girl to explain why she should be let out of the room.

In the days after the alleged murder, police released documents which revealed that the 15-year-old had been sexually abused by her uncle in 2010. According to police reports, the uncle had the girl perform oral sex on him and kept video of the crimes. A year later, in a heavily redacted report, the girl's mother told a court-appointed volunteer that she found two people having sex in her house and that one of them "did not want to 'do it.'" The mother also said that she was concerned the uncle was having the same two people have sex with each other.

The uncle was convicted and is serving a life sentence, but it is unclear what - if any - action was taken regarding the sex inside the house. After the shooting, the 11-year-old told police she and her 3-year-old sister shared a room with their brother.

According to police documents, the family had not sought counseling for the 15-year-old in the aftermath of the sexual abuse and she had previously attempted to end her own life but "neither law enforcement or EMS was notified."