Teen Faces Murder Charges After Death of Pregnant Minor

November 15, 2022 Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

A 16-year-old pregnant teen that was reported missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was found shot and killed in Orange County. A 17-year-old has been arrested for the crime and is waiting to hear if they will be charged as an adult.

We will provide the details of the case, along with helpful information on juvenile criminal cases in Florida.

What was the Incident?

An unnamed 17-year-old has been arrested and is facing second-degree murder charges after police say he shot and killed 16-year-old De’Shayla Ferguson during an argument.

According to the report, Ferguson was shot and killed on October 24th, 2022. Authorities found her body outside of a house on Broken Pine Center near Hiawassee Road. Orange County Sheriff John Mina announced that the victim had been shot once in the head.

“This whole community should be grieving for De’Shayla Ferguson and her family and her unborn baby,” Mina said.

 The suspect was arrested in Polk County on Monday and taken to the Orange County Juvenile Assessment Center. Mina stated that this is not the suspect’s first criminal charge. “[He] is no stranger to law enforcement, nor is he a stranger to our homicide detectives,” Mina said during a press conference.

According to Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), the defendant was charged with carrying a concealed firearm and violating house detention rules back in February 2021. The suspect was only 15-years-old at the time, and both charges were dropped.

In December 2021, the suspect was accused of a different murder—the killing of 23-year-old Jemile Pittman. The victim was found with one gunshot wound to the head inside a vehicle near South Rio Grande Avenue.

Mina claimed that after Pittman’s death, the suspect disposed of the gun somewhere and fled into another state. The suspect was later arrested on more gun charges in May, and police questioned him about the December shooting. The suspect admitted to shooting Pittman but claimed it was self-defense. He was then arrested again in July for gun charges.

The cases are still pending for both the May and July charges. The suspect has still not been charged with Pittman’s death. Mina stated he expected the 17-year-old teen to be tried as an adult in Ferguson’s death.

The following is a statement by Mina regarding the case:

“No one gets into this profession to arrest kids, especially for low-level offenses. But that’s not the case here. Those juveniles who are out there carrying guns and committing violent crimes in our community, that doesn’t apply to them. We have to acknowledge that someone who amasses this many gun charges and is responsible for the killing of two women and unborn child needs to be behind bars for a very, very long time for the safety of this community.”

Florida Law on Juvenile Information

When criminal cases involve minors, there are specific laws to protect their personal information from being published. The anonymity is meant to protect the identity of the minor—whether it be the victim or the defendant.

Under Florida law, police reports about a crime are considered public records. While juveniles are protected, there are certain circumstances in which their personal information is allowed to be published. The Legislature amended the original statute to inform the public of any serious juvenile crime.

The renumbered section of Florida Statute 39.045(9) which is now § 985.04 explains that a law enforcement agency can release the name, photograph, and address of a child that is:

1. Taken into custody by a law enforcement officer for a violation of law which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony;

2. Charged with a violation of law which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony;

3. Found to have committed an offense which, if committed by an adult, would be a felony; or

4. Transferred to adult court pursuant to part X of this chapter.

Due to them not being considered confidential and exempt from Florida Statute § 119.07 due to the child’s age.

Juveniles Tried as Adults

The state of Florida is one of 17 states that grants the prosecution discretion to Direct File a juvenile defendant as an adult without a judge having a say in the decision. According to the Human Rights Watch, almost 98% of minors prosecuted in an adult criminal court are sent by “Direct File.” That means the prosecutor can file the case directly to the adult court, which is not subject to judicial review and cannot be appealed.

Florida Law allows any 14- and 15-year-olds to be Direct Filed into adult court if they have been charged with one of 21 specified felonies.

While 16- and 17-year-olds, can be Direct Filed when in the state attorney’s judgment and discretion the public interest requires that adult sanctions be considered or imposed

So long as the juvenile committed any felony or if charged with a misdemeanor the child had two previous adjudications or adjudications withheld and one of them involved an offense classified as a felony.

Between 2006 and 2011, there were over 15,600 juveniles tried as adults in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the number dropped drastically between 2016 and 2021, with less than 6,000 juveniles getting sent to adult court.

Charging children as adults in criminal court can have lasting effects. Juveniles charged as adults then lose the opportunity and access to services such as counseling, rehabilitation, and support groups—all provided by the juvenile justice system.

Unless the minor and their family can afford to pay a bond, a child prosecuted as an adult will be required to remain in an adult jail until the trial. If the juvenile is convicted in an adult court, they will then have to serve an adult sentence in an adult facility. Serving time in an adult prison could pose a danger to children, who can be exposed to violence at the hands of other inmates or staff.

It is extremely important for a juvenile accused of a crime to get in contact with an experienced juvenile defense attorney to ensure their rights are not violated, and to build a strong defense for the case.

Finding a Juvenile Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida 

If you are a minor who has been accused of a crime, or if you are the parent of a child who has been charged with a crime, it is imperative to seek out legal help. As mentioned above, even a person under the age of 18 can still face harsh penalties—potentially the same penalties as those of an adult accused of a crime. With that being said, working with an experienced Juvenile criminal defense attorney is your best shot at winning your case.

Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience representing juveniles accused of crimes. We vow to stand in your corner and fight for your future. Contact us today for more information and a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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