|Updated: 6/06/2012 9:56 pm
||Published: 6/06/2012 9:56 am
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) - A 15-year-old Arkansas boy was sentenced to 45 years in prison Wednesday for killing his sister, acknowledging he shot her in the head while she was sleeping but not explaining why.
Grounded after being caught using smokeless tobacco, Colton Harvey shot his 16-year-old sister while his mother and stepfather were grocery shopping. He told a state police investigator that while he had dreamed of killing his parents, he hadn't thought of harming his sister.
"I don't know why I did it. It just happened," Harvey told state police investigator Corey Mendenhall. In the same police interview, Harvey said he deserved to die.
Harvey killed his sister, Candace, with a .22-caliber rifle - a first shot to the forehead woke her up and two more in quick succession stifled her screams.
"You stated that you murdered your sister. Is that correct?" Judge William Pearson asked Harvey, a lanky blond teen with his hands cuffed and feet shackled.
Harvey paused, then almost whispered in response: "Yes, sir."
The boy teared up as he addressed the judge, at one point raising his handcuffed hands to his face so he could dab his eyes with a tissue.
Pearson sentenced Harvey to 30 years for second-degree murder plus 15 more because he used a gun. Prosecutors initially charged Harvey with first-degree murder, which has a maximum penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole. Life without parole is reserved for capital murder cases, the prosecutor said.
"How far did you get in school?" Pearson asked Harvey, who responded so quietly that the judge had to repeat some of his answers.
As Harvey replied, "ninth grade," his mother sobbed.
Harvey told Mendenhall after the shooting that his parents woke him up to tend to deer jerky drying at their Franklin County home.
"I put it in a bag and I went and got my dad's .22 and shot my sister," Harvey said, according to a transcript of the interview, obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information request. He said he packed a bag with clothes, cologne, deodorant and ammunition.
"I drove up in the mountains above the house and then I turned around went to the police station. I pulled in the parking lot and then I got scared and walked out. I went to a friend's house and got a dip and then I went to the police station and turned myself in," he said in the interview.
Investigators found his sister's body in a bedroom at the family's home near Ozark, a town of about 3,600 roughly 120 miles northwest of Little Rock.
"What do you think now? What do you think should happen to you?" Mendenhall asked during the interview.
"I should get done to me what I did to her," Harvey said.
But the question of why Harvey shot his sister remained unanswered.
"He never did give what I would consider to be a clear motive," the prosecutor, David Gibbons, said after Wednesday's hearing.
Harvey's attorney, Bill James, said there is a history of mental illness in Harvey's family, but he said an expert wasn't able to give his client a diagnosis because of his young age.
"Every time I've ever seen him, he's cried," James said. "And it's not, 'Woe is me.' It's about what he's done to his mom and what he's done to his family."
A state review of Harvey's mental health noted that he was depressed after being jailed and that he said he had lost consciousness playing football in junior high school. But it found nothing on which to blame the shooting. In the state police interview, Harvey had said he had previously considered killing himself or his parents.
James said the teen never had any run-ins with the law before the shooting.
"I think his biggest problem was talking in class prior to this," James said.
His parents had only recently discovered he was using smokeless tobacco.
"I don't see why they won't let me do it. I've done it since third grade," Harvey told the state police investigator.
Harvey will head to a county jail until he's transferred to the Division of Youth Services, where he'll remain at least until he turns 16, James said. He can head to a state prison after that.
The judge sealed the case files at one point, expecting a motion to move the case to juvenile court, but he unsealed the records Wednesday.
Harvey's mother cried throughout Wednesday's proceedings and was aware of the ramifications of the plea deal, said the prosecutor, Gibbons.
"The situation doesn't lend itself for anybody to be happy," Gibbons said. "If there was somebody happy, absolutely happy, then an injustice would have been done."
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