RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A 15-year-old boy accused of shooting his older sister three times in the head as she slept at their rural Arkansas home pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder in exchange for a 45-year prison term.
Colton Harvey was charged as an adult in the January killing of 16-year-old Candace Harvey. Prosecutors said Candace was asleep in her bed when her brother fired the shots.
"You stated that you murdered your sister. Is that correct?" Judge William Pearson asked Harvey, a lanky blond teen with his hands cuffed and feet shackled.
Harvey paused, then almost whispered in response: "Yes, sir."
The boy teared up as he addressed the judge, at one point raising his handcuffed hands to his face so he could dab his eyes with a tissue. He told Pearson he used a rifle to kill Candace.
Pearson sentenced Harvey to 30 years for second-degree murder plus 15 more because he used a gun. Prosecutors initially charged Harvey with first-degree murder, which has a maximum penalty of life in prison.
"How far did you get in school?" Pearson asked Harvey, who responded in such a quiet voice that the judge had to repeat some of his answers.
As Harvey said, "ninth grade," his mother sobbed.
Authorities said Harvey likely killed his sister one January morning after their parents left to go grocery shopping about 40 miles away. The sheriff said he seemed remorseful and had tears in his eyes when he turned himself in that same morning.
Investigators found his sister's body in a bedroom at the family's home near Ozark, a town of about 3,600 roughly 120 miles northwest of Little Rock.
But the question of why Harvey shot his sister remained unanswered.
"He never did give what I would consider to be a clear motive," the prosecutor, David Gibbons, said after the hearing.
Harvey's attorney, Bill James, pointed out that there's a history of mental illness in Harvey's family, but he said that an expert wasn't able to give him a diagnosis because of his age.
"Every time I've ever seen him, he's cried," James said. "And it's not, 'Woe is me.' It's about what he's done to his mom and what he's done to his family."
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