What we know and what we don't know about the 17-year-old suspect in Orange Co. double murder
It's been two days since Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood announced his intent to charge the teenager.Posted — Updated
It's been two days since Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood announced his intent to charge the teenager. Still, the teenager hasn't been found.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office is keeping the investigation into 18-year-old Devin Clark and 14-year-old Lyric Woods' deaths very quiet. But, on Thursday, the sheriff's office allowed the release of the 911 call made by an ATV rider who found the bodies near the intersection of Buckhorn and Yarbrough roads.
"We have actually discovered two bodies," the caller tells 911.
The dispatcher then asks the caller where the bodies are.
"There's an access, like where the power company kind of road is. They are just lying on the side of the road," the caller said.
Because of the suspect's age, law enforcement have released very few details.
"State law would require the names of the juvenile to be kept confidential. You can’t release that," said defense attorney Daniel Meier.
Meier, who is a defense attorney in Durham and does not have ties to the case, said he knows the juvenile system well. He said because the suspect is accused of two counts of first-degree murder, by default, he will be moved up to the adult system where the possible sentences are much longer.
"Once he's transferred to adult court, then all bets are off and the name can be released," said Meier.
Clark and Woods, who family members said were friends, were reported missing over the weekend. Their bodies were found around two and a half miles away from Woods' home, and family members said the bodies were those of the missing teens. The identities of the two teens and their official cause of death is still being determined by the North Carolina Medical Examiner's Office.
It will be up to the district attorney to decide whether to keep the 17-year-old suspect in the adult system or bring him back down to juvenile court.
"Someone charged with a double homicide, unless there’s real extreme circumstances, I’d be surprised if the district attorney in Orange County chose to keep these in juvenile court," said Meier.
"All of the juveniles I have ever represented have moved up to adult court and stayed," he said. "All of mine have stayed in adult court. I've never had one sent back. It's unusual for them to be sent back for a crime like murder."
Meier said there is a big difference in a defendant's outcome in juvenile versus adult court. In juvenile court, Meier said, there's a cap on how long someone can serve.
"He can only be held until he's 23 — that's the maximum for juvenile court. Then, juvenile records are sealed," he said.
But, in adult court, a defendant convicted of first-degree murder has much more limited options.
"There are only two options for someone who committed the crime when they were under the age of 18, and that would either be life without the possibility of parole or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years," said Meier.
"It's a significant difference."
Meier said from his experience, district attorneys are sometimes more open to working with defense attorneys on plea deals for younger clients.
"Certainly, when you're looking at a homicide deal where you could get anything from 10 years to 30 years, and there’s a whole range, when you’re dealing with younger people, it’s easier to fashion something that could potentially still give them a life if they can rehab and stuff," said Meier.
Clark's family is planning a balloon release in Yanceyville for Thursday night. Clark's aunt said the event will be a place for his family and friends to grieve together and speak about what he meant to them.
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