The Florida girls who were arrested and charged with shooting their 16-year-old brother earlier this month will be charged as juveniles, according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. The sisters, ages 15 and 11, will be charged with second-degree murder.
The charges stem from an incident on Jan. 5, when the older sister allegedly shot her brother while he slept. Their parents were on a long-haul trucking assignment when the shooting occurred. They have been arrested and charged with child neglect.
The girls were initially charged with first-degree premeditated murder. The Sheriff’s office would not comment about why the charges have been reduced. PEOPLE is not naming the girls because of their age – and due to allegations that at least one of them had been repeatedly sexually assaulted.
The girls were home with their brother and a 3-year-old sister. According to the initial incident report, the 15-year-old told police that, on the day of the shooting, her brother had locked her in a room with a bucket to use as a toilet.
While her brother slept, police say that the girl’s 11-year-old sister helped her escape the room. The older girl allegedly went outside and entered her parents’ locked bedroom through a window. Police say she found a 9mm handgun, loaded it and then shot her brother in the neck while he slept on the living room couch.
According to the arrest report, the girls packed some clothes in a bag, put their 3-year-old sister in a bedroom, and walked to a nearby store. They called a friend, who later called police.
After the girls’ arrest, police released a 30-page report that revealed that the 15-year-old had been sexually abused by her uncle when she was 10 – and that her brother had molested her, as well. (The uncle is serving a life sentence on several child sex charges. He is not eligible for parole.) The documents say that the girl’s parents had not sought counseling for her – and that “neither law enforcement or EMS was notified.”
“This is a really, really sad case,” Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter told reporters in a press conference. “I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the stuff nightmares are made of.”