LAKE CITY, Fla. - A Columbia County judge on Wednesday morning ordered the 15- and 11-year-old sisters accused killing their 16-year-old brother held without bond. The same judge set $20,000 bond for the parents, who are charged with child neglect.
According to authorities, Misty "Ariel" Renee Kornegay, 15, broke into her parents' locked bedroom Monday evening and shot her older brother, Damien Kornegay. The Sheriff's Office said her 11-year-old sister assisted in the shooting, but "she didn't pull the trigger."
At an afternoon news conference, Sheriff Mark Hunter struggled to find words to describe what happened.
"I've been doing this for a good long time and I've never seen anything like this," Hunter said."This is the stuff nightmares are made of."
The children's father, Keith Kornegay, is an over-the-road truck driver and the mother, Misty, was with him on a trip when the shooting happened. They returned home as soon as they heard about the shooting.
After they were questioned, they were also arrested, each charged with child neglect causing great bodily harm, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.
In addition to the the $20,000 bond, the parents were ordered to have no contact with their children without permission and supervision by the DCF.
Authorities said that after the shooting, the two sisters packed clothes and left their home in northern Columbia County, walking to a Dollar Store in White Springs, nearly 4 miles away. The 11-year-old then called a friend's mother to tell her that she had run away. That woman called police about 9:30 p.m.
When officers arrived, the younger girl first claimed she didn't know where their parents were, but Ariel Kornegay (pictured) then said they had been kicked out of the house.
When pressed for an address and more details, Ariel broke into tears, then said her brother had beaten her and locked her in her room. After the brother fell asleep, the 11-year-old let her sister out. Ariel then broke into her parents' bedroom, retrieved a gun, loaded it. Ariel told the 11-year-old to take younger sister into another room, then shot Damien (pictured) as he slept on the couch.
Third Circuit State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister hasn't decided whether to charge the girls as adults. Children arrested for crimes and treated as juveniles can be held in detention for a maximum of 30 days before being formally charged.
"Sometimes we can send them home after that, but in light of all of the facts in this case, we don't have any place to send the children," Siegmeister said. "I may be forced to actually charge them as adults to hold them in juvenile detention until I can work something out. I don't know all of the facts yet."
Siegmeister said it would take an indictment by a grand jury to charge the two girls with first-degree murder. He added that while the decision isn't made, it is unlikely the younger child will be charged as an adult.
After Wednesday's hearing, the girls were given separate lawyers and send to different juvenile detention facilities. The parents would continue to be held in the Columbia County jail.
A 3-year-old sibling was in the family home at the time of the shooting. She is now in state custody of the Department of Children and Families while child welfare investigators work with deputies to determine if there was neglect or abuse and then make recommendations about custody, but a judge will have the final say.
Sheriff Hunter said the investigation found evidence that the parents had removed Ariel from school because she had been acting out and had attempted to kill herself several times. The parents had kept her locked in her room for up weeks at a time with just a blanket and bucket for her to urinate.
The police report called it "inhumane conditions."
There is also a family history of sexual abuse, with a member of the extended family serving time and listed on Florida's registry of sexual offenders.
"This is a heart-wrenching tragedy for our community," Hunter. "Our entire community is grieving along with the family."
"This is a deeply disturbing case that we certainly need to investigate thoroughly," said DCF spokesman John Harrell. "We want to do whatever we can to help the children in this case."
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