By PAUL QUINLAN
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 04, 2007
A 16-year-old boy shot and killed both his parents in the living room of their home, flagged down deputies and confessed in cold detail, according to arrest reports released Friday.
Investigators say Jacob Brighton of 8795 W. Ave. B phoned a cousin in California to say he shot his mother, 46-year-old Penny, and his father, 47-year-old Richard. Deputies say the boy used one his father's two 9mm semiautomatic pistols Thursday afternoon.
The cousin called his mother, Pandora Whiting, in Port St. Lucie. The aunt dialed 911.
"It would not, quite honestly, surprise me, with some of the history of the household," Whiting told 911 dispatchers.
The parents' deaths came one week before Penny Brighton, who taught disabled students of various ages at St. Lucie Elementary School, would have finished course work at Florida Atlantic University in pursuit of her master's degree in education. She started in 1997.
The tragedy also fell just weeks after Brighton's brother, Jeremiah, left for U.S. Navy boot camp.
"There does not seem to be any clear issue as to what provoked this, and that is puzzling to us," St. Lucie County Chief Deputy Garry Wilson said Friday.
Brighton, a student at Fort Pierce Central High School with no criminal record, remains at the St. Lucie County Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Pierce, facing two homicide charges. He appeared briefly before a judge Friday afternoon, clad in a navy blue jumpsuit and showing little emotion, even as tearful relatives watched.
Brighton will probably be prosecuted as an adult in a case in which the facts are "definitely enough to justify" first-degree murder charges, Treasure Coast State Attorney Bruce Colton said. The assistant state attorney assigned to the case, Steve Gosnell, said the boy could face life in prison, although it has not been decided whether he will be charged as an adult for first- or second-degree murder.
Among the details to be considered are statements made on the night of the killings, when deputies wheeled into the small rural neighborhood, a dirt-paved cul-de-sac west of Fort Pierce, around 7 p.m. The teen waved frantically at deputies and sprinted up to a cruiser, where he delivered a frank confession through the car window, according to arrest reports.
"I've done something terrible. I've shot my parents," Brighton said. "There is no point in rescue. They're dead."
When the deputy told the boy he was calling paramedics anyway, Brighton repeated that he knew his parents were dead and went on to describe the murders in calculating detail.
"I shot my dad in the back, and then my mom tried to run, and then I shot her in the shoulder and neck."
The boy went on to say: "I didn't want my dad to suffer, so I shot him again while he was on the floor."
Inside the home, deputies said they found the parents lying in pools of blood where the kitchen met the living room. A bullet casing sat next to the father, and four others were on the bed. Deputies said they found the 9mm used in the killings on the floor of a white Chevrolet pickup parked in front of the home, beside a trailer where the kids would hang out, the aunt told 911 dispatchers.
The aunt, who said she was not recently close with her sister Penny, also said the father's nephew may have been living in the RV recently.
"Be very aware of my brother-in-law Rick, because he's very mouthy and has a tendency to be abusive, from what I hear," Whiting told 911 dispatchers. "I have not witnessed it, but this is what I hear."
Of the teen, she said: "He's not on any medication, and he doesn't do any drugs that I'm aware of."
In the teen's pocket, deputies found a small, clear plastic bag with a few marijuana seeds, a report said. In another pocket, they found another small bag that was empty and a lighter.
After loading him into a cruiser, the teen asked a deputy: "How powerful is a 9mm? Will it go through a person?"
The deputy said it would. A few minutes later, the teen spoke again. "I don't want to see my parents. I don't want to see my parents."
News of Penny Brighton's death rippled through the teaching community, saddening former colleagues.
"She was a very caring individual," Lawnwood Elementary Principal Felicia Nixon said. Brighton taught at Lawnwood from 2000 to 2005. "She had a great rapport with the students. She was a wonderful teacher."
Neighbors described Jacob Brighton as a homebody whom they rarely saw outside, except when he was playing with remote control cars or walking to and from the bus stop. He was known as the more quiet member of the family.
His brother, Jeremiah, liked to ride dirt bikes, as did his father, a self-employed drywall contractor. The father and older brother often would go riding in Okeechobee on weekends, said Kelly Davis, 19, a neighbor and friend of Jeremiah's.
She said Jacob Brighton got picked on a little at school for being overweight. Her 11-year-old brother, Cody, a closer friend of Brighton's in the neighborhood before he began attending Fort Pierce Central, said the two played video games. Cody said the two would shoot pellet guns in the neighborhood.
Several other neighbors said they did not know the Brightons or knew them very little. They walked their dogs at night. They kept to themselves.
"They were good people. You didn't hear much from them," said Vernon Davis, 41. "They sure didn't deserve what they got."