‘Charged as an adult’: Teens in Dadeville case could face same punishment as adults

By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Emily Benito

Six people between the ages of 15 and 20 are facing charges of reckless murder after four people died in a mass shooting at a Sweet 16 birthday party in Dadeville April 15.

They are:

  • Wilson LaMar Hill Jr., 20, of Auburn
  • Johnny Letron Brown, 20, of Tuskegee
  • Willie George Brown Jr., 19, of Auburn
  • Tyreese “Ty Reik” McCullough, 17, of Tuskegee
  • Travis McCullough, 16, of Tuskegee
  • A 15-year-old suspect who has not yet been named

Tyreese and Travis McCullough are being tried as adults, and the 15-year-old suspect is awaiting a hearing. All suspects save the 15-year-old were denied bond Wednesday.

In Alabama, someone who is 16 or 17 may be charged as an adult for a Class-A felonies under certain conditions.

Some of those are:

  • Use of a deadly weapon causing death or serious injury
  • Use of a dangerous weapon against public officials or employees, including Alabama public school employees

Charging the McCulloughs as adults is clear-cut, said Tuscaloosa defense attorney Joel Sogol.

“The process of moving a juvenile from juvenile to adult court is based on two factors,” Sogol said. “One is the age of the juvenile. If they’re 16 or older, you can do what’s called an automatic removal.  That is when they’re charged with murder so they’re automatically removed from juvenile court. They don’t go to juvenile court, they go straight to jail and they are handled as an adult.”

But when a suspect is younger than 16, as is the case of the 15-year-old suspect arrested in the Dadeville mass shooting, that makes things more complex, Sogol said. But it’s still possible he could be charged as an adult.

“If they’re under 16, then you have to have what is called a removal process,” said Sogol. “That starts in juvenile court, where there would be a petition filed to move them to adult court. Then there would be a hearing and the judge will grant the motion or deny it. If he grants it, (the suspect becomes) an adult for adult court. If he denies the motion they stay in juvenile court.”

Sogol said this process is generally fast, depending on evidence in the case.

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