RALEIGH, N.C. — At least two of the five teenagers facing charges in the death last year of a Raleigh homeless man will be tried as adults, a Wake County District Court judge ruled Wednesday.
Prosecutors say Regynald Jose Brown, 37, was beaten to death and placed in a trash can in a drainage tunnel along the Walnut Creek Trail of the Capital Area Greenway in Raleigh sometime between early November and Dec. 8, when friends found his body.
Three 15-year-old boys and a 13-year-old boy are accused of murder, and another 15-year-old is accused of helping them after the killing.
Judge Robert Rader found probable cause Wednesday morning that one of the 15-year-olds should stand trial in Superior Court on a first-degree murder charge.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Pomeroy said the teen watched, participated in and encouraged Brown's attack.
"It literally shocks the mind to imagine doing this for sport," she said.
The suspect's defense attorney, George Kelly, however, said his client did not intend to kill Brown.
Also Wednesday, an afternoon hearing before District Judge Vince Rozier for another suspect was continued until next week so that his defense attorney can review new evidence in the case.
Prosecutors also said that another 15-year-old suspect waived his probable cause hearing and agreed to be tried as an adult on a second-degree murder charge in exchange for his testimony in the case. The 13-year-old also agreed to testify for the state as part of an agreement that will keep him in the juvenile court system.
The 15-year-old testified Wednesday morning that the group had a habit of attacking homeless people – what they called "a lick" – and were looking for a victim in November when they found Brown.
They took turns hitting him and beat and kicked him even after he was bleeding and knocked unconscious, the teen said. They dragged him 30 feet into the tunnel, just east of Hammond Road. One of them hit Brown three times in the head with a rock, and they left him to die.
The 13-year-old suspect testified in the second hearing Wednesday afternoon that they returned several days later to hide Brown's body in the trash can.
Samuel Evans, another witness for the state, testified that he was on his way home from work around the time of Brown's disappearance when he saw two boys rolling a city-issued trash can down the street toward the greenway.
It was Evans' interview with police, detective Eric Gibney testified, that led authorities to the teen suspects. Police went to the address on the trash can where one of the teens lived.
Brown was last seen alive at church by Jaqueline Adams, the mother of his 5-year-old daughter, on Oct. 31, Adams testified.
Although the two did not live together, she said, Brown was an active part of her and her daughter's lives and would visit on a regular basis.
He had been having a hard time finding work and had been staying with a friend. At times, she said, he also camped along the greenway.
When she hadn't heard from him by Nov. 20, she reported him missing and began searching for him in the woods and at homeless camp sites in Raleigh.
She was also part of a group that was searching for him on Dec. 8, when they found his body head-first in the trash can.