COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – A 15-year-old girl who police say shot and killed her older brother near White Springs in January has accepted a plea deal.
Ariel Kornegay was convicted of burglary, a second-degree felony, in Columbia County court Thursday afternoon, and the prosecutor said criminal charges would not be filed for the killing.
Prosecutors reviewed years of alleged sexual and physical abuse against the teen before offering the deal, which will include counseling and attending school with good behavior and does not include any more jail time. She was placed on probation for an unspecified time that could last up to her 19th birthday.
"I believe that justice is served by the plea and sentence negotiated," State Attorney Jeffrey A. Siegmeister said in a news release. "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. Probation is there to encourage her to actively play a role in getting these necessary services."
Kornegay had admitted to the Sheriff's Office that she shot and killed her 16-year-old brother, after he refused to release her from a locked room that only contained a blanket and a waste bucket.
Their parents were out of town and had ordered Ariel to stay in that room while they were gone.
Investigators said Ariel's 11-year-old sister let her out of the room and together they broke into their parents' room from the outside. Ariel found her parents' handgun, loaded it and then shot her brother, police said.
Ariel and her sister were initially arrested on probable cause of first-degree murder, Siegmeister said, but after reviewing the case he decided to file charges of burglary instead. Ariel pleaded no contest on Thursday.
"This is a very rare instance," local attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters said. "The prosecutors in this case after their investigation determined that the sexual abuse and the mental health history deserved such mitigation that justice would not be served by choosing to go forward with just a murder charge. So the prosecutors decided that they were more interested in rehabilitation and getting a therapeutic care that was necessary."
The children's parents, Misty and Keith Kornegay (pictured) were in court Thursday. They currently face child neglect charges but have been released on bond. The State Attorney's Office said that it plans to file felony child abuse charges against the parents.
Another condition of Ariel's plea deal is that she "testify truthfully in the case of her parents."
"What that says to us from the prosecutors is that they understand that this child obviously had a less mitigating roll, but they hold her parents very much so accountable," Peoples-Waters said. "And they're going to make sure that as a part of her probation that she is available to testify to any child abuse that the parents rendered upon her. Obviously, they're going to hold these parents to a very high standard."