Police search for teen boys in connection with Beaver Falls fatal shooting
William Bailey watched his fiancee drift toward death in the moments after he says a teenager fatally shot her over a request to bum a cigarette.
“She had this look of peace in her eyes and it scared me to death,” Bailey, 28, said two days after paramedics loaded Kayla Peterson, 22, of Beaver Falls into an ambulance outside the home they shared on 13th Street. “I'm still in shock. I'm still expecting her to come through the door.”
Police on Monday were searching for two of the three Beaver Falls teens they say are responsible for killing Peterson, the mother of a 1-year-old girl. They charged Marcus Velasquez, 14, with homicide and other crimes in connection with the shooting, and Todavia Cleckley, 14, and Kyle Goosby Jr., 13, with conspiracy.
They arrested Goosby on Monday. Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said he intends to prosecute them as adults.
Attorney Michael Santicola is representing Goosby and said his client has never been in trouble, but in the past fought with the two other suspects.
“He is a 13-year-old boy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Santicola said. “He's been caught up in this thing.”
Relatives at Cleckley's home declined comment. No one answered the door at the Velasquez' home on Seventh Avenue.
Bailey said he didn't know any of the teens but knows their families.
“Family members have come to the house to apologize and give condolences,” Bailey said.
He said he bought cigarettes at J's News about 3:30 p.m. Saturday when three teens asked him for one and began following him.
“I didn't acknowledge them, I didn't look at them, I pretended I didn't hear them,” Bailey said. He walked the two blocks back to his house while they followed and shouted at him.
Peterson came out of the house and yelled at the teens to get a job and stop trying to bum cigarettes, Bailey said.
Police said it was Velasquez who pulled a gun out of his waistband and fired, striking Peterson.
“She said, ‘I can't feel my legs,' ” Bailey said. He helped her to the ground. “She told me she loved me and to love the baby for her.”
Peterson died about two hours later at Allegheny General Hospital. A witness saw Velasquez pull the gun, and Cleckley ran away with him after the shooting, police said. They used surveillance video to identify Goosby as the third teen involved.
“You never think someone is going to pull out a gun and shoot you. Especially not a 14-year-old,” said Peterson's stepfather, Wesley Chapman, 50, of New Sewickley.
Facebook photos on a profile under Cleckley's name show a young man posing with guns. Beaver Falls police Chief Charles Jones said he didn't know who was in the photos but that detectives used Facebook as part of their investigation.
“We're using every means available to us to investigate,” Jones said.
Duquesne law professor Wes Oliver said it is becoming increasingly common for young people to post evidence of criminal behavior on social media.
“There really is a more voyeuristic culture now among criminals, who really celebrate their crimes by putting pictures and even videos on Facebook,” Oliver said.
On his Facebook page, Cleckley says he “attended” Beaver Falls Area Senior High School. Santicola said Goosby is a student at Beaver Falls Middle School.
Big Beaver Falls Area School District Superintendent Donna Nugent issued a statement Monday saying two of the three suspects have not been “part of the student body or within the district's school buildings for over a year.” Nugent wouldn't specify which suspects. She said a letter to parents notified them about the incident and said counselors were available for students. She declined further comment.
Criminal justice experts say it's becoming more common for authorities to charge younger people with violent crimes such as homicide.
“I think the reason we see more of these cases brought against younger offenders has more to do with decisions by prosecutors to try these cases in adult court than it does an increase in the numbers,” said John Burkoff, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “That's not to say it's wrong. I do think there certainly has been increasing sentiment to take the more serious and horrific cases into adult court whatever the age of the offender.”
Oliver pointed to the case of Wampum resident Jordan Brown, who was 11 when state police charged him as an adult with killing his father's pregnant fiancee and her unborn child.
A judge later moved Brown's case to juvenile court. Brown, now 15, was found delinquent and ordered held in juvenile detention until as long as his 21st birthday.
“There is a perception that there is a real problem with juvenile violence out there,” Oliver said. “That perception, whether it's true or not, is causing people to demand longer sentences for juveniles.”
Bailey, who planned to marry Peterson this summer, said she was devoted to their daughter, Elieonna, 1.
“She really was the rock in our family,” Bailey said. “I don't know what I'm going to do.”
Sherry Chapman, her mother, said Peterson was an outgoing and strong-willed woman who spoke her mind.
“That's how she was,” said Sherry Chapman, 44. “She said it to the wrong kids.”
The family planned a funeral Wednesday. Wesley Chapman said the family would help Bailey with their granddaughter.
“She's all we have left of her,” he said.
Staff writer Bob Bauder contributed to this report. Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.