Four Michigan teenagers charged with murder in a highway rock-throwing incident agreed to plea deals on Monday, angering members of the victim’s family who feared the boys might get off easy under the agreement.
The teens, ages 15 to 17, agreed to plead guilty to one count of manslaughter in the October death of Kenneth White, 32, who was ridding in a van on Interstate 75 when a large rock came crashing down from an overpass.
The four teens, along with a fifth suspect, 18-year-old Kyle Anger, were originally charged as adults with second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, six felony counts of malicious destruction of property and two misdemeanor counts of malicious destruction of property. It’s unclear if the manslaughter charge would be filed as adult or juvenile, which would impact the sentencing.
Anger, who allegedly threw the rock that stuck White, did not appear in court on Monday.
Attorney Jim Gust, who represents one of the four boys, told The Associated Press that they would most likely spend time in a juvenile detention center, but not prison.
"None of the juveniles threw the rock that actually killed the man," Gust said. "Just young boys doing something stupid."
The victim’s mother, Theresa Simpson, said she was angry after the court hearing.
"I have a lot of anger towards all of them right now, still. But one day it will, one day I know I will have that resolved,” Simpson told reporters outside the court on Monday. “But right now, it's just, it's real hard for me to let go of those emotions.
She said she wants her son's death to be a reminder for children everywhere to "think before you do something" that could cause harm to someone.
"I mean, no matter what time they get, it's never going to bring back my son, you know,” Simpson said. "I want all kids out there to understand everything has consequences."
The four boys could have faced up to life in prison if convicted of murder, but that charge was dropped, as were the 10 other felony charges.
"I hope they see what they've done," White's aunt, Annette Safran, told reporters on Monday. "I just hope these children learn from this. Something good comes out of this for all children -- not just the five that did it, but for all children. I really do."
Another aunt, Nancy Jobe, had much harsher words for the suspects in the case.
"I don't agree with this. I think it's wrong," Jobe said. "These kids are old enough to know what the hell they did. They will never understand the pain and anguish they've caused."
The four teens are expected to return to court in 30 to 60 days, an attorney said. Anger is scheduled to appear in court next week.