RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County authorities on Thursday identified a murder victim found Tuesday night in the southwest part of the county as Matthew Josiah Silliman, the Apex teenager whose parents had reported him missing late last month.
As Silliman's identity was being confirmed, four Wake County high school students who are connected to him through the social networking site Facebook were denied bond when they appeared in court for the first time to face murder charges in his death.
Allegra Rose Dahlquist, 17, of 601 Walcott Way, Cary; Ryan Patrick Hare, 18; of 100 Walnut Hill Court, Apex; Aadil Shahid Khan, 17, of 901 Bristol Blue St., Apex; and Drew Logan Shaw, 16, of 107 Woolard Way, Apex, had been arrested Wednesday.
All four were in the Wake County jail Thursday evening. Their next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 22.
Silliman, an Apex High School student, was reported missing Nov. 26 and was the subject of a statewide Silver Alert, which notifies the public of missing adults suffering from certain mental impairments. Authorities issued the official cancellation of that alert as developments were unfolding Thursday afternoon.
Authorities have said little about the investigation, how Silliman died or a possible motive for the slaying. Deputies found the body at an unoccupied home that Dahlquist's family owns at 4221 Olive Branch Lane in New Hill.
Arrest warrants said the homicide occurred Nov. 30, and they listed the victim as John Doe.
Family members and friends of the suspects were in court Thursday. They hugged one another and cried as District Judge Jennifer Knox advised the suspects of their rights and informed them they face a possibility of life in prison if convicted.
All were under age 18 at the time of the crime, — Hare turned 18 on Wednesday — and the U.S. Supreme Courts has prohibited executions of people under age 18 at the time of a capital crime. State law provides execution or life imprisonment as the penalties for first-degree murder.
Shaw and Hare asked for public defenders Thursday, while Dahlquist's family has hired prominent Raleigh defense attorney Joseph Cheshire. Attorney Doug Kingsberry will represent Khan.
"The only thing I can say is that Aadil feels terribly sorry for the family of the young man who died," Kingsberry said.
"They're very sad and having a hard time dealing with this," Cheshire said of the suspects and their families. "A situation like this creates all kinds of victims."
Family members declined to comment after the brief court hearing, but Billy Shenk, a friend of Shaw's, said he and the 16-year-old were part of a "juggalo" crew, which Shenk described as a group of outcasts.
"It's not a gang, not violence," he said. "It's just a group of people who are tired of being picked on and everything, so we just form together and grew strong."
Shenk added that he does not think Shaw is a violent person.
"He's a really good kid after you guys get to know him. All these people are saying Gothic kids are the reason for all this. No, it's not," he said.
On his MySpace page, Shaw, a sophomore at Panther Creek High School in Cary, referred to himself as a "juggalo," which also denotes a fan of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse.
A friend of Shaw's, in a posting on his MySpace page Thursday, described it as "a state of mind," and belief in the Dark Carnival, a fictional theme in the group's albums. Numerous other Web sites explain the term in other details.
MySpace and Facebook provide glimpses of the other suspects – all four were listed as Silliman's friends of Facebook.
Hare's MySpace page on Thursday depicted a nuclear explosion with the phrase: "I can imagine a world of love, peace and no wars. Then, I imagine myself attacking that place because they would never expect it."
On his Facebook page, friends wished him happy birthday and expressed disbelief about the arrest.
“I'm just figuring that somebody did something stupid,” one person wrote. Another: “happy birthday. WHY?”
Khan's page on Thursday featured anarchist symbols. In describing himself, he wrote, "I believe in justice … but my own kind … I am an anarchist … It is usually hard to place me in a social group simply because I don't really fit in one …"
Cheshire, whose client's Facebook and MySpace pages were set to private, said Thursday it is too early to say if what is posted online had anything to do with the crime with which the students are charged.
Psychiatrist Mark Moffet, who is not familiar with this case, but has worked with teenagers with similar interests, says that although the behavior alone does not mean a child is headed for trouble; it is a sign to start talking about what is happening in their world.
"If they are not coming to you, you can go to them,” he said.
Cheshire asked that people not speculate on the suspects' fates and suggested taking a lesson from the 2006 Duke lacrosse case, in which three members were falsely accused of rape but eventually cleared of all charges and declared innocent. Cheshire represented one of the defendants in that case.
"We, at this point, don't know what the truth is," he said. "So, we'll find out, and I'm sure we'll all find out together as we go."