Prosecutor Says 17-year-old Murder Suspect Will Be Prosecuted As An Adult

A prosecutor in Orange County said on Wednesday that a 17-year-old suspect would be charged as an adult in the deaths of two other youths whose bodies were discovered in a forested location in western Orange County last month.

According to Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Neiman, a decision might be made within the next 15 days, and the suspect’s identity and more case details could be released at that time.

Prosecutor Says 17-year-old Murder Suspect Will Be Prosecuted As An Adult
Prosecutor Says 17-year-old Murder Suspect Will Be Prosecuted As An Adult

Lyric Woods, 14, and Devin Clark, 18, were discovered by authorities at about 3 p.m. on September 18 in the woods near Buckhorn Road in Orange County. Both young people were discovered south of Efland along an ATV track, and both had been shot.

The juvenile petition for the 17-year-old suspect who has been charged with two counts of murder in this case was issued by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Orange-Chatham District Attorney’s Office a few days later; the suspect’s identity has been concealed.

On Tuesday, authorities said, the suspect made his first court appearance in Orange County. Television news organizations said they were denied entry to the premises and prevented from filming the session.

According to Nieman, state law mandates a 15-day waiting period before formally prosecuting a juvenile as an adult. During this time, the prosecution may inform all relevant parties and the suspect can file an appeal.

Nieman said, “In understanding the level of public interest in this case and perhaps the frustration with the limits that the law places on how much can be disseminated, I did want to make clear that while we will continue to follow the law about limiting public information and dissemination, I did want to respond to many questions we have received about whether we intend to seek transfer of this case to adult Superior Court.”

We will be filing a motion to have this case transferred to adult court, he said.

Once that occurs, he added, the suspect’s identity and further case data would be made public.

He said that officials had not ruled out the possibility of more arrests.

Identity of juvenile suspects is confidential
In 2019, legislators in the state modified the legislation so that juvenile offenders aged 16 and 17 would no longer be automatically prosecuted as adults. Unless a minor is prosecuted as an adult, the law prohibits law enforcement and the court from disclosing any information on a suspect who is under the age of 18.

Frustration and fury have arisen in the community and on social media as a result of the decision to suppress the suspect’s name, with many wondering why his identity, his location, and the motivation for the crimes are being concealed.

Some have made analogies to the 15-year-old suspect in the Raleigh shootings, whose identity was released shortly after the murders.

On Wednesday, Nieman was interviewed by The News & Observer over the phone and indicated that the identity of the Raleigh suspect had not come from official sources.

The intelligence “was gathered via some avenue other than through the district attorney’s office or law enforcement,” Nieman said, based on conversations he had with Raleigh authorities. While I can’t say with absolute certainty that that is so, I have been informed that this is the case. Just so you know, the law in Wake County is the same as the law in Orange County… but there are various means of gathering information.

Recalling Lyric Woods, Devin Clark said,
Near the intersection of Buckhorn and Yarbrough roads, where Woods and Clark were slain, a monument may still be seen today.

Social media messages from family and friends indicate that the two teens were close friends. They both attended high school in the area; she as a freshman at Cedar Ridge in Hillsborough and he as a junior at Eastern Alamance in Mebane. The families of both teenagers have set up GoFundMe accounts.

The suspect’s connection to Clark and Woods is unclear at this time.

In the days after Woods’ death, her grandpa Stan Dean told The N&O that he had placed a cross with lights around it at the memorial spot “because she was scared of the dark.”

Dean noted that Woods “trusted everyone” and always looked for the best in people. Too many minutes have passed… Breath by breath, that’s all we can do.

He is offering $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

 

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