Teens Charged With Murdering Their Best Friend in the Woods
Two teens have been accused of killing their best friend -- but they may serve adult-scale sentences. Last summer, 16-year-old Skylar Neese went missing. After searching for months, police got a breakthrough; 16-year-old Rachel Shoaf, supposedly Skylar's best friend, confessed to the teen's murder and led police to her body in a wooded area about 30 miles away from their home. Now another teen has been identified as an accomplice in Skylar Neese's murder. Seventeen-year-old Sheila Eddy has been charged in Skylar's death and prosecutors say they want to try her as an adult.
Skylar's father, Dave Neese, had some grim words for this latest news. He said Sheila "can now get what she has coming ... Well, she done an adult crime, she needs to be tried as an adult. She didn't do something that a minor does. She did something an adult would do." But is that really a reason to try Sheila as an adult?
Prosecutors say Rachel and Sheila lured Skylar out of her house and into the woods, where they stabbed the girl to death. Rachel pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and awaits sentencing, which could be severe. Prosecutors say they will recommend a 20-year prison sentence and will oppose attempts to sentence the teen as a juvenile. Sheila hasn't entered a plea yet, but her behavior after the murder is shocking. Right after Skylar went missing, Sheila tweeted, "Rest easy Skylar. You'll always be my best friend. I miss you more than you could ever know." She also helped search for Skylar.
I know the crime is horrific, and I can understand why Skylar's family would want to see justice served. Police haven't revealed the motive for Skylar's murder, so we still don't know what led Rachel and (allegedly) Sheila to murder their best friend. But I still feel like there are some good reasons why teens are tried as juveniles rather than adults.
Yes, teens do occasionally commit adult-like crimes, as Skylar's father puts it. But they commit those crimes with underdeveloped judgment. The teenage mind is significantly different from an adult mind. That should matter.
On the other hand, at least Rachel's sentence is relatively light, for a murder. I'm sure her young age was taken into account. She'll still be in her 30s by the time she is released. If convicted, Rachel might get a similar sentence. If she really did participate in the murder, I hope she'll enter a plea so at least her victim's family doesn't have to go through the agony of an open trial.
Do you think teens should be tried as adults when they commit serious crimes like murder?