Circuit Court rules suspect in Lucia Bremer murder to be tried as adult

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 4:45 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 9:05 PM EST
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico Circuit Court judge has overturned a decision by the juvenile court moving forward with charging the teen suspect in the Lucia Bremer case as an adult.

Bremer, 13, was murdered in Henrico’s west end on March 26, 2021. The suspect, now a 15-year-old, was arrested roughly 24 hours later.

The ruling comes after Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Shannon Taylor, filed an appeal of the juvenile court’s Nov. 22 decision denying the request to charge the suspect as an adult.

Bremer was killed on March 26 while walking in the Gayton Forest West neighborhood with a friend. The suspect, a 14-year-old at the time, was charged with her murder and attempted murder of the other girl under the age of 13.

Over the last 9 months, the case has been heard in Juvenile Court, therefore information was deemed confidential. However, due to the appeal hearing being held in Circuit Court, the courtroom was open to the public - revealing new details in the case and the suspect himself.

During the three-hour appeal hearing, the judge heard testimony from the Commonwealth’s four witnesses - three members of the Henrico Co. Police Division and an employee in the Henrico court service unit. A psychologist was also called by the defense to provide testimony.

According to testimony provided on Thursday afternoon, it showed the teen suspect had previous interactions with Henrico Police - at home and in school.

In May 2018, officers were called to his home after he allegedly assaulted his mother and an in-home counselor. The officer described the incident as a mental health situation and a temporary detention order was taken out.

Meanwhile, a school resource officer at the suspect’s elementary school testified about an April 2019 incident. He had allegedly made concerning inappropriate comments to a female student. In June 2019, the officer testified she responded after the suspect allegedly threatened other students outside, asking them to join a “Satan club.” He also allegedly assaulted a female student. A 4-inch knife was also found. As a result of the June 2019 incident, a temporary detention order was taken out against him.

At the time of the 2018/2019 incidents, the suspect was 11/12 years old. Petitions, or the equivalent of charges in the juvenile system, were taken out against him - two counts of assault and one possession of a weapon at school. However, those charges were dismissed for unknown reasons. However, the alleged assault of his mother was likely withdrawn due to her death in the last few years.

Due to the death of both of his parents, the suspect has a caregiver. According to court testimony, the gun used in the shooting of Bremer belonged to the teen’s caregiver.

On March 26, interviews with witnesses in the neighborhood led investigators to a home near the shooting scene. There they learned the teen suspect was living with his caregiver who was renting the basement of a home.

Per testimony from the lead detective on the case, the caregiver was cooperative and showed detectives the gun he had, which was the one used in the shooting. It was found in a desk drawer, with a cable lock on it, “properly” put away as the caregiver had last seen it.

Meanwhile, the detective also testified about information received from the FBI on March 28 about a comment that was found on a YouTube video on March 18, 2021. That video was of a ‘re-enactment’ of a school shooting with the song “Pumped up Kicks.” The user who left the comment was linked back to the suspect in the Bremer case.

The comment on the video, allegedly left by the suspect, read in part, “This is going to be me when everyone comes back to school.” The comment was made eight days before the murder of Bremer.

Testimony from a Henrico County court service unit member, who helped prepare the transfer of charges request for the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, gave comments on the document itself. Previous records showed the teen was referred to several mental health agencies in the past, but very few had conclusive results of any positive changes.

The teen’s defense attorney questioned the lack of some services that may have been needed, including grief counseling, trauma counseling, but per testimony documents show no requests for treatment were ever made.

The topic of the suspect’s mental health continued when the defense called its own witness - a psychologist who evaluated the teen multiple times.

Dr. Michele Nelson described the suspect as a “man of few words.” She also called him a “diagnostic dilemma” because he does not fully fit in any of the disorder categories. As part of her evaluation, she made the following diagnosis:

  • Unspecified trauma disorder
  • Unspecified neuro-development disorder

Overall, Nelson said the teen needs long-term treatment, especially since some disorders present themselves at later points in life.

Meanwhile, Taylor said her office also wants to make sure the 15-year-old gets help but feels charging him as an adult is best in this case.

“This is not about handling a matter and asking for life in prison,” she said. “This is literally about making sure we have a system in place that will be able to continue to help this young man as well as serve that dual purpose of public safety.”

Taylor added all services in the juvenile system if the case were to proceed there would cut off at age 21. What her office will look at doing is if the teen is found guilty of the charges during the trial, she will likely ask for a “blended sentence” which would allow the 15-year-old to access some of the services in the juvenile system.

“Just because a juvenile is brought to circuit court, does not mean that we don’t have the ability to utilize services that are offered in juvenile court,” Taylor said.

Meanwhile, Bremer’s family and support system were in the courtroom for the ruling.

“It was a very emotional finding for them and emotional experience in the end,” Taylor said.

NBC12 spoke with one of the attorneys representing the suspect, Kevin Purnell, who said they understood this result was a possibility and now they have to go forward and prepare for trial.

A three-day jury trial has tentatively been set for July 11.

The suspect will continue to be housed at the Henrico County Juvenile Detention Center.

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