Victims: Sierra Brown, 16, and Uniek Atkins, 27
Suspects: Two juveniles, one of whom was 17 and 11 months
Crime date: November 17, 2018
Crime location: Los Angeles
Crimes: Double murder, arson
Sierra Brown, 16, and her sister Uniek Atkins, 27, were brutally murdered. The suspects are two juveniles. One of the suspects had been dating Sierra. This suspect, who was one month away from his 18th birthday when the crimes were committed, will be prosecuted in juvenile court, meaning that if he is convicted he will be released from custody upon turning 25. The victims’ family is opposed to District Attorney Gascon’s decision to prosecute the alleged killer as a juvenile.
A judge Wednesday agreed to allow the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute an alleged double-murderer in juvenile court for the killings of two sisters in Westchester.
In a court filing, an attorney representing the victims’ family members noted that the defendant — who was a month shy of 18 when Sierra Brown and Uniek Atkins were killed and is now 20 — can “only remain in custody until he is 25 years old” if the case is handled in juvenile court.
He could have faced a potential life prison sentence if he was tried and convicted in adult court for the Nov. 17, 2018, killings of Brown, a 16-year-old girl whom he had been dating, and her 27-year-old sister, according to the filing from Kathleen Cady, a retired Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who is representing the victims’ family.
The attorney representing the victims’ family noted that the District Attorney’s Office had earlier filed a motion to transfer the case against the defendant to adult court.
However, a directive enacted by new District Attorney George Gascon shortly after he was sworn into office in December — in which he vowed that the office will “immediately end the practice of sending youth to the adult court system” — violates the victims’ constitutional rights and eviscerates the discretion that prosecutors have to evaluate each case individually, Cady wrote in her filing.
“Because of his mandatory policies which govern each deputy district attorney, and ordered them to withdraw each and every motion to transfer without exception, we submit that this is such an extreme case as to merit disqualification, and are hereby moving, under the rights enumerated in the California Constitution, to disqualify and remove the entire District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting this case,” Cady wrote in a filing that sought “a competent and professional review by another prosecutorial agency.”
Judge J. Christopher Smith also rejected a motion to disqualify the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office from handling the case against the defendant, according to Cady.
Cady called the decisions “devastating” for the family.
“They feel very devastated because they feel like justice hasn’t been done,” Cady said after the hearing.
Brown — who was shot once in the left side of her neck — was the mother of an infant who was not fathered by the defendant, while her older sister was the mother of two children and was shot four times, according to the court papers filed by Cady. The three children are now being raised by the victims’ family.
“There is also evidence that the defendant tried to clean up the crime scene with bleach before he set the apartment on fire,” Cady wrote in the court filing, which alleged that the defendant “fabricated an alibi, which was disproved when he was shown a video of him entering the apartment the night before and leaving the next morning.”
The two victims were found dead after firefighters put out the blaze at the apartment in the 8600 block of Belford Avenue, near Manchester Avenue.
Cady is among a group of former prosecutors who have teamed up with former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to represent the families of victims in some cases, who are upset about Gascon’s directives.
Uniek Atkins, 27, and Sierra Brown, 16, were found Saturday morning after the blaze at an apartment building in the 8600 block of Belford Avenue, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
LAPD officials said the sisters had been shot. Brown died of a gunshot wound to the neck, but Atkins’ cause of death is still pending additional investigation, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office reported.
Atkins is named as Uniek Souvinette in the GoFundMe page. The fundraiser is for the sisters’ three children, who are 6 and 7 years old, and the youngest is 10 months old.
The young women’s family members said at a vigil Sunday that they don’t know who would want to hurt the sisters.
No arrests have been made in the shooting. A motive behind the crime also remains a mystery.
A car belonging to one of the victims is missing, LAPD Detective Sean Kinchla told KTLA. It’s described as a white, four-door, 2015 Nissan Altima with a California license plate of 7CXN273.Suggest a Correction
Victim’s Boyfriend Among 2 Juveniles Arrested in Connection With Killing of Sisters Found in Burned Westchester Apartment
Two juvenile males were arrested Wednesday in the killings of two sisters who were found shot inside a burned apartment in Westchester, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
The Nov. 17 killings are believed to be domestic violence-related since one of the victims was the girlfriend of one of the suspected killers, according to Officer Mike Lopez of the LAPD.
About 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday, the primary suspect was arrested in the 1900 block of 22nd Street while the second suspect was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory to the murder, police said.
The suspects have not been identified since they are minors.
Their arrests come just days after Uniek Atkins, 27, and Sierra Brown, 16, were found inside an apartment in the 8600 block of Belford Avenue where a fire was reported just after 9 a.m. on Nov. 17, according to LAPD. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
The two sisters were found with gunshot wounds, with 16-year-old Brown dying of a gunshot wound to the neck, according to the Los Angeles County-Medical Examiner-Coroner. Her sister died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The day after the killings, loved ones gathered for a vigil and said the two sisters were both mothers. They had just recently moved into the apartment.
Questions surrounded their death as grieving family members couldn’t make sense of why they would be targeted.
“They weren’t in any type of gang, nothing. Just really good girls who did not deserve this,” said their cousin, Tierra Turner.
One of the relatives of the victims set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for funeral arrangements and the young children of the two sisters. The youngest is 10-months-old while the other two are ages 7 and 6.
A vehicle involved in the case was found in the 1300 block of West 35th Place, according to Lopez.
The investigation is ongoing and LAPD officials plan to present the case to the Los Angeles District Attorney for consideration of criminal charges.
Anyone with information is urged to call homicide investigators at 213-382-9470.