Mitchell Bieber was scheduled to appear in the court this morning for the start of his murder trial. Instead, he will be continuing to serve his sentence for killing his younger brother last April.
Bieber, 17, pled guilty in Effingham County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years by Judge William Woodrum.
“I think the sentence speaks for itself,” said Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew, the lead prosecutor on the case. “It was appropriate in this case.”
Bieber was accused of stabbing his little brother Tyler Fennell on April 20, 2007, at the family’s home. He then attacked his mother and stepfather before fleeing the residence.
The family was making preparations to go out to dinner for a birthday celebration.
“I feel bad for everybody involved,” said Robert Persse, the public defender assigned to Bieber’s case. “There are just no winners here. There’s a 7-year-old child who is dead and a 17-year-old boy who has lost his childhood, and a family is left in the wake. It’s just sad.”
Said Bieber: “I wish it hadn’t happened. I wish I could take it back.”
Bieber testified on his own behalf during the sentencing portion. The two sides could not come to terms on a sentence and left the decision up to the judge.
“We decided this was the only way to go,” Persse said. “It could have been much more different had we gone to trial.”
Bieber claimed he was on drugs when he killed his brother, having taken Xanax, cocaine and marijuana.
“The lab reports show Mr. Bieber was under the influence of drugs,” Persse said. “That is not a legal justification for what happened. But it gives us some idea of what possessed him. What happened that night is totally out of character.”
Muldrew said toxicology tests conducted 14 hours after Bieber’s arrest did not show any marijuana in his system. He also confronted Bieber with statements he made at school about wanting to kill his parents. Bieber denied making the statements.
“You can’t give the court a good reason why you shouldn’t get the maximum sentence?” Muldrew asked. “Neither your parents nor your brother did anything to deserve this?”
“No, sir,” Bieber said.
Bieber’s mother Kara Fennell and an aunt and uncle also testified in support of Bieber. Fennell said the brothers had a good relationship and there were no incidences of violence between them up until the night Bieber killed his little brother.
“I’m asking the court to give him a sentence that includes the possibility of parole and not that excludes the possibility of parole,” she said.
When the boys’ mother, went to get to Tyler to tell him to get ready to go, she found his body on the bedroom floor. Bieber then attacked her as she yelled for help and then attacked his stepfather. His parents were badly wounded and his mother wore sunglasses into court because of a lasting injury to one of her eyes.
Bieber faced three counts of murder, one count of cruelty to children, three counts of aggravated assault and three counts of possession of a knife or a firearm in the commission of a crime. Prosecutors agreed not to press the final three charges and merged the cruelty to children charge and one count of aggravated assault with the first count of murder.
Bieber originally pled not guilty on July 12. He wanted to plead guilty to the charges all along, but Persse said they entered the not guilty plea to make sure they had all the evidence and information.
Judge Woodrum asked Bieber if he had been shown the crime scene photos, including the images of his little brother with a vicious cut across his neck. Bieber said he had seen them once.
“It’s terrible to see a young child lose his life, but particularly in this manner,” Judge Woodrum said. “This is a terrible crime that has been committed.”
Bieber has been held at the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years.