After 17 Years, Florida's Youngest Murderer Will Be Released From Prison This Month

In 1999, two Florida tweens made headlines when they shot and killed their father’s 29-year-old girlfriend, Sonya Speights, with their father's 9mm semi-automatic as she worked on a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle in their home just outside Cocoa Beach. Thirteen-year-old Catherine Fairchild Jones fired the first shot into Speight’s torso and dropped the gun. Her 12-year-old brother, Curtis, picked up the gun and then fired it at Speights until the magazine was empty.

After firing the shots, the siblings fled to the woods by their house. Police found them in the morning and an initial investigation found jealousy was the motive after their 38-year-old father announced plans to marry Speights.

A Brevard county judge decided to try the 12- and 13-year olds as adults, making Curtis Fairchild Jones to become the youngest person in the country to be charged as an adult for first-degree murder. Instead of facing life in prison, both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced to 18 years in prison. When Curtis was leaving the courthouse he allegedly asked his lawyer if he could bring his Nintendo with him.

Now, 16 years later, Curtis is set to be released, Florida Today reports. In less than two weeks the country’s youngest convicted murderer will live on his own for the first time in his life. His sister will be released later this year, too.

The siblings come out of prison as 29- and 30-year-olds who have never driven a car or sent a text message in their life. They will be on probation for the rest of their life. The smallest infraction can land them back in prison.

Other than a minor setback in 2004, when Curtis and several other young boys escaped from a juvenile detention facility after hurricane damage demolished a fence, both have reportedly demonstrated good behavior.

It was later determined that the Jones’ children might have been victims of sexual abuse. It was revealed that days before the event Department of Children and Families investigated signs of sexual abuse but closed the case. In Catherine’s diary, she wrote that she had been plotting to kill their father’s girlfriend, Sonya Speights, and her father and another male relative for at least two weeks. She claims the male relative would masturbate while she showered.

Their case, later taken on by Florida State University’s law professor Paolo Annino, has made some strides in prison reform. The Second Chance for Children in Prison Act was set to pass in five years ago, but couldn’t make it through the House of Representatives. It would’ve allowed children serving more than 10 years in prison a chance for parole after serving eight years. 
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Jess Swanson is the news editor at New Times. She graduated from the University of Miami and has a master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Contact: Jess Swanson