(BALDWIN, Ala.) — An Alabama judge set $200,000 bonds Friday for three teenagers charged with felony murder in the death of 17-year-old girl who was allegedly helping them burglarize fishing camps when she was shot by a homeowner.
Summer Moody, 17, was with the three 18-year-old men — Scott Byrd, Dylan Tyree and Daniel Parnell — on April 15 when she was shot in the head by a man confronting the group “as they committed a series of burglaries on Gravine Island,” according to the Baldwin County District Attorney’s office.
Three residents near the camp that had been burglarized came outside and two fired warning shots. One of the shots was fired into the woods where the teens were hiding. Moody was shot in the head and died in the hospital several days later.
Byrd, Tyree and Parnell were all indicted on felony murder charges by a grand jury and the three residents, including the man who fired the shot that killed Moody, were not charged.
The teens are also facing first-, second- and third-degree burglary charges.
“The entire matter was presented to the grand jury, who determined what charges should be leveled and who to charge,” District Attorney Hallie Dixon said in a statement. “The law is very clear that Miss Moody’s death was the result of the young men’s actions, and felony murder applies.”
The decision was the result of a “thorough investigation into the death and the burglaries” which yielded “a large body of evidence,” according to the district attorney’s office. The three fishermen were cleared and are not expected to face any charges in the future.
“But for the actions of these three young men, who were engaging in armed burglaries and who acted aggressively when caught, Summer Moody would be with us today,” Dixon said.
Martha Simmons of the Baldwin County District Attorney’s office said, “It has been testified to an open court that they had a long gun and a knife with them at some point.”
“I think that it also was testified in the preliminary hearing that the men [the fisherman] had told the police officer that initially they thought the boy had a gun with them,” Simmons said.
“Logically, it seems crazy. But legally, it’s pretty straightforward,” Pam Pierson, a professor of law at the University of Alabama, told ABC News.
Under Alabama’s felony murder statute, if a person is participating in certain felonies including burglary, and someone is killed, the other participants can be charged with murder even if they did not intend for anyone to die or even commit the actual killing.
“It’s meant to deter people from committing felonies,” Pierson said. “It means that whether you agree or disagree, morally if you set into action events that are really dangerous, then you ought to be held accountable for all of the consequences.”
Pierson said that recently broadened self-defense statutes in the state allow for legal situations like this one.
The state’s self-defense statute used to say that a person could only use an equivalent amount of force to defend themselves, but the amended law allows people to stand your ground with deadly force.
Along the same lines, the state’s castle doctrine law gives everyone the right to protect their home. If an unarmed person threatens another person’s home, the homeowner is allowed to use deadly force against them.
“Those are two huge recent amendments that have enlarged the self-defense laws,” Pierson said. “Almost all law enforcement officials have been against these amendments because it encourages vandalism and being excessive, it entices people to use too much force when they should be more restrained.”
Byrd, Tyree and Parnell are being held at the Baldwin Corrections Center. The attorneys representing each defendant did not respond to requests for comment from ABCNews.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire