GAINSVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A 15-year-old north Florida girl who authorities say fatally shot her 16-year-old brother after years of abuse at home pleaded no contest on Thursday to felony burglary and will receive probation and counseling.
The girl's probation will last until her 19th birthday, and is contingent upon her participation in counseling, and testifying truthfully in the case of her parents, who face felony child abuse charges, Third Circuit State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister said.
"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 girl and her 11-year-old sister were initially arrested on suspicion of murder after the Jan. 5 shooting in Lake City. No charges were filed against the younger sister.
The Associated Press is not naming members of the family because of the girls' ages and because of abuse allegations.
On Jan. 5, the girls and their 3-year-old sister were left by their parents in the care of their brother. The parents were away on a work-related truck drive.
Police say the brother locked the elder sister in her room, but when he fell asleep, she persuaded the 11-year-old to let her out.
She went outside and cut out the air conditioner of her parents' locked bedroom window to retrieve a pistol, which she used to shoot her brother in the neck.
Documents show that the elder girl suffered years of abuse, including being locked in her bedroom for days regularly with only a blanket and a bucket to use the bathroom.
In addition, documents showed that she had been sexually abused by her uncle, who was convicted in 2010. Authorities also said the children's mother had discovered the siblings having sex in 2011, but after an investigation by child welfare officials, no one was charged.
Siegmeister said all of the family's history and circumstances were taken into consideration in the decision not to pursue more serious criminal charges.
"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. Further incarceration ... serves no deterrent, rehabilitative nor other societal interest."