By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - 18-year-old Benjamin Brantley's family walked out of Recorder's Court Tuesday morning, visibly upset their son was denied bond.
Brantley was charged with murder, possession of a sawed-off shot gun and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Police say he shot 16-year-old Kayla Castro in the chest inside his Wellborn Drive home over the weekend.
Brantley and his family say Kayla's death was an accident. Brantley tells police he was walking into the bedroom where Kayla was sitting with the shot gun in one hand and tried to close the door with the other hand. That's when he says the gun accidentally discharged. But in court this morning, the judge said he couldn't bump down the charges to involuntary manslaughter because it is a felony to posses a sawed-off shot gun.
"In order for it to be involuntary manslaughter, the underlying charge has to be a misdemeanor and by Georgia law, possession of a sawed-off shot gun is a felony. So therefore involuntary manslaughter is not really an option in this case," defense attorney John Martin says.
Martin is not involved in this case, but says because possession of the sawed-off shot gun is a felony, Brantley faces a felony murder charge.
"But then you have to further show that the doing of the felony itself caused a foreseeable risk of harm, which I see the argument being it did cause foreseeable harm to be walking around the house with a loaded sawed-off shot gun," Martin says.
Detectives testified Tuesday morning that ballistic test on the shot gun revealed it was unlikely the gun discharged on its own.
But Brantley tells police he loved his girlfriend of over a year and didn't know the gun was loaded.
Brantley's family sat in court wearing t-shirts that said "Free Benny" on the front and "RIP Kayla" on the back.
Meanwhile, family and the community continue to mourn the Hardaway High School student's death.
Kayla's grandfather tells NBC 38 his granddaughter was a beautiful girl and will be missed by friends and family.
Her friends continue to post on a memorial Facebook page, saying things like "you were so beautiful and you were an amazing person. How could something like that happen to someone so wonderful?"
But in some post, friends expressed disapproval over the relationship between Brantley and Castro.
Detectives also told the court this morning Brantley has a juvenile record that includes simple battery. He was also charged as an adult on misdemeanor marijuana charges in 2011.
WLTZ NBC 38
6140 Buena Vista Rd, Columbus, GA 31907, 706-561-3838
GA News Hotline: 706-507-6397
AL News Hotline: firstname.lastname@example.org