A Utah teen is facing a murder charge after he helped a 16-year-old girl kill herself in May — an accusation his attorney, who describes what happened as a “tragedy,” says is too harsh, PEOPLE confirms.
A judge will determine if there is probable cause for Tyerell Przybycien, 18, to stand trial. Przybyzcien appeared in court in Utah County, Utah, on Wednesday for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors argued in support of his criminal role in the May 6 death of Jchandra Brown.
Key to their case is an approximately 10-minute video Przybycien recorded of the teen hanging herself as well as text messages he allegedly exchanged with another person about the suicidal plan. In addition to murder, he is charged with one count of failing to report a body, according to charging documents obtained by PEOPLE.
Przybycien’s attorney, Neil Skousen, does not dispute that his client was involved in Brown’s suicide, helping her purchase necessary supplies and filming it while it happened. But he claims the murder charge is unwarranted — that Brown’s suicide was her own decision — and he will move to have it dismissed.
Judge James Brady has not yet ruled on the matter, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, with the lawyers seeking additional time to file briefs and oral arguments set to continue on Oct. 10.
Przybycien remains behind bars in the Utah County Jail in lieu of a $500,000 cash bail; he has not entered a plea. Prosecutors and Brown’s family could not be reached for comment.
“This is a tragedy. There’s no other way to paint this picture,” Skousen says of Brown’s death.
However, through their investigation, detectives discovered a series of text messages on Przybycien’s phone dating back to April that appeared to show he was excited about aiding in Brown’s suicide, the charging documents state.
In one conversation, according to the documents, Przybycien texted a friend asking what he should do if someone wanted to kill themselves.
“Talk them out of [it],” the friend replied. To which Przybycien allegedly wrote, “The thing is.. I wanna help kill them. It be awesome. Seriously [I’m] going to help her. [It’s] like getting away with murder! [I’m] so f—– up. I’m seriously not joking. [It’s] going down in about a week or two.”
Detectives also allegedly found child pornography on the defendant’s phone, according to testimony at Wednesday’s hearing. Skousen declined to comment on that, pending future charges.
A Fatal Scene
Charging documents show that Brown’s body was found by local turkey hunters on May 6. She was hanging by a noose from a rope tied to a tree in Payson Canyon, Utah.
Next to Brown’s body were two grocery bags, containing receipts for the rope and aerosol air duster, as well as her phone and a handwritten note saying to watch the video on her phone for answers as to what happened.
A phone with video of Brown’s death was left near her body, the Deseret News reports.
Przybycien was soon found on a trail nearby, where he was crying, authorities testified on Wednesday, according to the News.
In the video recorded by Przybycien, Brown appears to be standing on a rock and a piece of wood. Przybycien’s voice can be heard from behind the camera and then, moments later, Brown inhales the aerosol air duster while wearing the noose, Skousen says.
He says the video shows Brown giggling and then losing consciousness thanks to the aerosol — an apparent attempt to ease her suicide.
Brown appears to fall and, as her body hangs, Przybycien continues to film while speaking to her, including saying, “Thumbs up if you’re okay,” Skousen tells PEOPLE.
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Defendant: ‘I Feel Guilty’
During Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, the court heard how during a police interview, Przybycien admitted he felt remorse over his role in his friend’s death. He also told police that he helped Brown tie her noose and had previously researched how to do so, according to the charging documents.
“I feel guilty. I feel like I did murder her,” he allegedly told investigators, according to police testimony. “I helped her so much.”
Police claim that Przybycien told them Brown confided in him months earlier about wanting to kill herself and in the hours before her death, Przybycien said he picked Brown up from work and drove her to two different stores to purchase the air duster and rope used to tie the noose.
Skousen says that Brown’s last wish was for Przybycien to film her and then deliver a note to her mother that said she had made the decision to kill herself on her own and that she loved her.
The day before the preliminary hearing, Brown’s mother dyed her hair blue in honor of her daughter, she wrote on Facebook.
The teen’s family was reportedly in court on Wednesday, where video of her suicide was played. They said they hoped for justice, according to the Tribune.
“She thought she found a friend,” Brown’s aunt told the paper, “and she found a monster.”
Suicide Prevention: What to Know
Experts say some common warning signs of suicide include discussing a desire to die or feeling anxious or hopeless, like a burden, or trapped or in pain; withdrawing from others; extreme mood swings, including anger and recklessness; and abnormal sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little).
Many suicides have multiple causes and are not triggered by one event, according to experts, who underline that suicidal crises can be overcome with help. Where mental illness is a factor, it can be treated.
Reaching out to those in need is a simple and effective preventative measure, experts say.
If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK, texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or seeking help from a professional.