Charges could be dropped or greatly reduced against two young north Florida sisters accused in the fatal shooting of their 16-year-old brother, the lead prosecutor on the case said Tuesday.
Third Circuit State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister said he'll make a final decision about charges after a Thursday court hearing, which will also address options for the girls' care, given both of their parents are being held in jail.
The Jan. 5 shooting resulted in the arrests of a 15-year-old girl and her 11-year-old sister on second-degree murder charges. Documents show the elder girl had suffered years of physical and sexual abuse.
Investigators say the elder girl was held in a locked bedroom by her older brother while their parents were away on a work trip. After the brother fell asleep, the girl convinced the younger sister to unlock the door so she could shower, police reports state.
The elder sister asked the younger to keep watch while she climbed through the window of her parents' locked bedroom, where she retrieved a pistol, police said.
With gun in hand, the girl asked her younger sister to take their 3-year-old sister and hide in a closet before she shot her brother in the neck as he slept, police said.
The two older girls fled the house, leaving the toddler behind. They were later found by police outside a Dollar General store after the younger girl called a friend saying she needed a ride.
Documents show the elder girl was locked in her bedroom regularly for days with only a blanket and a bucket to use the bathroom. Her parents had also removed her from school, documents show.
Siegmeister said the alleged abuse and neglect, along with the girls' ages, are being considered in any charges. If they were convicted as juveniles of second-degree murder the pair would spend until their 21st birthdays in prison.
The parents currently face charges of felony child neglect, and the 3-year-old is being cared for by child welfare officials.
The Associated Press is not naming members of the family because of the girls' ages and because of abuse allegations.