JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The high school students charged with killing their classmate in February are now facing first degree murder charges.
Charles Southern, 17, and Connor Pridgen, 16, were arrested days after the body of 17-year-old Makia Coney was found in a wooded area off Powers Avenue, just a few miles from University Christian School, where all three were students.
Coney had been shot to death.
State Attorney Angela Corey said shortly after Southern and Pridgen were arrested, they would be tried as adults because of the heinous nature of the crime.
They had been charged with second degree murder. In a court hearing this morning, the charges were changed to first degree murder.
READ THE INDICTMENTS: SOUTHERN | PRIDGEN
The attorney bringing the new charges said the sentences the charges carry were behind the change. First degree murder carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years to life, but a second degree conviction has a much wider range of available sentences.
Both defendants entered not guilty pleas. They will be back in court for another pre-trial hearing April 22.
University Christian principal Heath Nivens released this statement today:
We are very pleased with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and especially the detectives that worked so diligently on this very tragic case. We are confident that proper justice will be served for these two teenage boys who have taken this precious life. Our fervent prayers and support continue for the families involved in this tragedy.
While we certainly cannot understand the "why" behind this tragic situation, we will continue to seek ways to honor Makia's memory. Makia Coney will always be remembered for the kindness she exhibited, the zeal she had, and the dear friend she was to so many of us.
Jacksonville City Councilman Dr. John Gaffney spoke to First Coast News on behalf of Coney's family. "This is somebody's baby. This is somebody's child, so a mother wants justice for her child," Gaffney said.
He relayed that Coney's family felt the charges should be first degree murder and said they are hoping for the maximum sentence: life in prison.
First Coast News