The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

He said it would be ‘awesome’ to help a friend kill herself. Now he’ll be tried for murder.

A Utah judge has ruled that Tyerell Przybycien will stand trial in the death of 16-year-old Jchandra Brown. (Video: Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post, Photo: Scott Sommerdorf/The Washington Post)
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Weeks before her death, 16-year-old Jchandra Brown confided in her friend, Tyerell Przybycien, that she wanted to kill herself. When Przybycien, 18, asked another friend what he should do, the friend encouraged him to talk her out of it.

But Przybycien, of Spanish Fork, Utah, admitted he wanted to help end her life. “It be awesome,” he texted. It would be “like getting away with murder.”

He helped her meticulously plan the suicide and set it in motion, prosecutors allege in court documents. He researched and settled on how she would do it. And on May 5, he picked the girl up from work, purchased an industrial strength aerosol air duster and rope for her, and drove her to the site of his choosing: the scenic Maple Lake near Payson Canyon, 23 miles south of Provo, Utah.

He helped fasten the rope to a tree, ensuring it was tight and high enough, Przybycien would later admit to authorities. He set up a wooden pedestal atop a rock, and tied a noose for her because she didn’t know how to do it.

Then, police say he later admitted, Przybycien filmed the grim moments that followed — Brown stepping onto the pedestal, placing the noose around her neck, inhaling the air duster, which caused her to lose consciousness, and ultimately her falling off the platform in a twisting motion. He continued filming for about 10 minutes.

Was it murder? Przybycien’s lawyer, Gregory Stewart, argued that none of his actions directly caused Brown’s death.

“Her putting the noose around her neck, stepping onto the pedestal, and inhaling the compressed air so she passed out and slipped from the pedestal caused her death,” Stewart told The Washington Post. “These intervening acts, we argue, and not Tyerell’s actions, caused her death.”

But on Tuesday, a judge ruled it is “reasonable to infer” that Przybycien intended to cause Brown’s death, and were it not for his actions, the girl would not have died.

Utah County district court Judge James Brady on Tuesday ordered Przybycien to go to trial on a first-degree murder charge. He also faces one misdemeanor count for failing to report a dead body. If convicted of murder, Przybycien could face 15 years to life in prison.

In his 16-page ruling, Brady wrote that Przybycien’s actions were a “substantial factor” in bringing about Brown’s death, which was “foreseeable.” He said prosecutors are not required to show that Przybycien’s actions were the sole cause of her death to support a murder conviction. Przybycien, Brady wrote, cannot “escape criminal responsibility” just because the girl apparently wanted to die. The man knew what he was doing, the judge wrote, and took no precautions to prevent the death.

“Likewise, encouraging and helping to facilitate the suicide of an impressionable minor who could have benefited from support, counseling or therapy is completely lacking of social value,” Brady wrote.

The case marks the first time someone has been accused of aiding and recording a suicide in Utah, prosecutors said, according to the Associated Press. It also parallels some aspects of the landmark case of Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts woman who was found responsible for the death of her boyfriend, whom she urged through phone calls and text messages to kill himself.

Texting suicide sentencing provides no closure, but victim’s mother declares: ‘We want to move on’

She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to more than two years in the Bristol County House of Correction in Massachusetts. Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told The Post that the conviction sent a strong message that “there are new means of committing old crimes,” and prosecutors will be more likely to look at these types of cases.

The judge ruled on Przybycien’s case after a preliminary hearing last month.

Przybycien’s lawyer said he is exploring all options available for his client, who will probably plead not guilty to all charges at his arraignment next Tuesday.

In the weeks leading up to Brown’s death, Przybycien began spending more and more time with her as she told him she was considering suicide, according to court documents.

On April 19, he messaged a friend, asking “What you do if you knew a friend was trying to commit suicide?”

The friend replied “Talk them out of ut.”

“The thing is,” Przybycien replied, “I wanna help kill them. It be awesome. Seriously im going to help her. Its like getting away with murder! . . . I’m seriously not joking. It’s going down in about a week or two.”

On the morning of May 6, a turkey hunter came across Brown’s body hanging in a tree by a rope. The air duster can was resting at her feet, beside a receipt showing the purchase of a rope under Przybycien’s Visa card, according to court documents. A handwritten note was also left near her body. It stated her name and referred any questions to a video captured on her black smartphone, which was also left at the scene.

Once they charged the phone, officers watched the 10-minute video, which was later shown in court. At one point in the video, Przybycien is heard saying to Brown, “Thumbs up if you’re okay,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. At another point, he said, “That’s when the brain stops getting oxygen.”

When Brown passed out and fell from the pedestal, he is heard saying, it “didn’t work. That did not even work,” according to court documents.

As officers investigated, Przybycien returned to the scene and soon after admitted to his role in the suicide. He told authorities he had an interest in watching someone die, and admitted that he got “carried away” with the idea of Brown’s death. He said that he, too, was suicidal and wanted to watch Brown die to see if it was something he could go through with himself. He admitted to telling her he would also kill himself, according to court documents.

Przybycien also said he wanted to retrieve the rope for sentimental value, and told police “that was my plan. That was the plan.” He said he checked her pulse after the hanging and left the scene after not finding one.

Just before midnight the night of Brown’s death, according to court documents, he wrote to a friend: “Bro It happened. I helped her do it too and I feel so guilty.”

After her death, Przybycien dropped off a suicide letter to Brown’s family. The letter, addressed to her mother, ended with Brown writing, “Again, this was my decision,” according to television station KSL.

In a hearing last month, Brown’s mother sat in the courtroom with her hair dyed blue as a tribute to her daughter, KSL reported. Bryan said she felt her daughter was “groomed” by Przybycien to take her own life.

Przybycien and Brown were both students at Spanish Fork High, KSL reported.

“Friends don’t let friends die,” the mother told Fox 13, “So Tyerell was not a friend.”

Brown’s aunt, Polly Mejia, went further with her words, as she spoke to KSL.

“Her problem was she thought she’d found a friend,” Mejia said. “Instead she’d found a monster.”

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