Two 15-year-old youths have been charged with abduction, rape and murder in the death of a 12-year-old girl who was baby-sitting her brothers in the Morgantown area of Fauquier County Monday, sheriff's deputies said today.
The two boys, not identified because they are juveniles, were charged with first-degree murder an hour after Melissa Lee Bushrod's body was found at about 5:30 p.m. and were charged with abduction and rape today, said Fauquier County Commonwealth's Attorney Charles B. Foley.
The teen-agers were identified by Melissa's 4-year-old brother, Richard, and a 6-year-old friend, according to investigator Maynard Bright.
"This is probably one of the most -- if not the most -- brutal murders I've ever dealt with," said Foley. If convicted, the youths could receive up to three life sentences each, he said. "It is obvious this young girl struggled a tremendous amount."
"She was stoned several times, choked and stomped," Bright said. She had a bruised esophagus, a ruptured liver and it appeared she had been raped, he said.
Melissa was found by a relative about 75 yards from her grandmother's house off Rte. 720, where she lived with her mother and three brothers, according to Bright.
"My understanding . . . was that Bushrod did not go [outside] voluntarily" with the teen-agers, Foley said. "The difference in the [two statements by the teen-agers after their arrest] was at what point resistance began."
Foley said the autopsy report and additional lab work will be ready sometime next week.
Foley said first-degree murder during the commission of a rape makes the crime a capital offense. The options in a capital offense are life imprisonment or death in Virginia, he said.
If the youths, who are being held at the Rappahannock Juvenile Detention Center in Fredericksburg, were 17 or older, Foley said, he would be seeking the death penalty.
"It's questionable as to whether any judge would send any 15-year-old to die," he said. "My goal is three life sentences [each]."
J. Gregory Ashwell, who represents one of the boys, said last night that he had no comment on the case because it is still in juvenile court and the proceedings are confidential.
Foley said that, according to the youths' statements, Melissa heard her grandmother calling her and she told the youths she would tell on them.
The victim's grandmother, Rosie Bushrod, said today after Melissa's funeral that she and her daughter, Marilyn Stewart, and son-in-law, George Stewart, had returned from grocery shopping when she started looking for her granddaughter outside her house.
The child's mother, Ethel Bushrod, 27, was shopping in Marshall at the time, she said. Rosie Bushrod could not find her granddaughter, but she "found her underwear" near the home. "I went back to the house and got my son-in-law."
George Stewart said his mother-in-law had seen marks near the underclothes where someone may have been dragged along the ground. He said they started looking for her there and soon spotted her body near a partially dried stream.
A rock, about a foot wide and with blood on it, was lying by her body, according to Marilyn Stewart. "My husband called the sheriff," she said.
The incident is the third serious crime in recent months involving juveniles in the Washington area. Two 12-year-old District of Columbia boys were found guilty July 19 in Baltimore federal court of the second-degree murder of a 7-year-old District boy. Their sentencing is set for Aug. 14.
In another case, the 10-year-old playmate of 7-year-old Steven Wilson Jr. of Montgomery County was charged with assault with intent to maim. The 10-year-old had originally given the police descriptions of two teen-agers who he said carried out the assault.
Melissa's family members and friends, sitting around a food-laden table at Mount Nebo Baptist Church after the funeral, today expressed disbelief over Melissa's death.
"I would never have thought they'd the youths charged do something like this," said one of Melissa Bushrod's cousins. "They were just regular boys -- neighborhood kids."
Ethel Bushrod, Melissa's mother, said her daughter was quiet and loved to sit in the house, along Rte. 2 in rural Marshall.
"It all happened so fast," said Ethel Bushrod, holding her 2-year-old son, George, in her arms. "I don't understand it." Family members said George, along with Richard, was under Melissa's care at the time of the incident. Her third brother, Ronald, 9, was out playing, they said.
Foley said that at a hearing in Fauquier County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court here today, it was determined that the two youths should not be released to the custody of their parents, who were described by sheriff's officials as "pretty upset."
He said another hearing was set for Aug. 22, at which time it would be determined whether the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Fauquier County would retain jurisdiction or whether the case would be sent to the county Circuit Court, where the two would be tried as adults.
Capt. W. L. Jenkins of the sheriff's department said yesterday that he has never seen anything so brutal in the county.
"We've had some concerned parents in the area call and say, 'What do I do to protect my children?' "