If Curtis Fairchild Jones walks out of South Bay Correctional Facility as scheduled Tuesday, it'll mark the end of a 16-year chapter for a man who, as a boy, became America's youngest murderer. On Jan. 6, 1999, Curtis, 12, and his 13-year-old sister Catherine shot and killed their father's girlfriend Sonya Nicole Speights as she worked on a jigsaw puzzle; the Brevard, Fla., siblings fled into the woods and were located the next day. Jealousy was initially floated as the motive (their father intended to wed Speights). A grand jury determined they should be charged as adults; rather than risk life in prison, they pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were handed 18-year sentences, of which they had to serve a mandatory 85%. As Florida Today explained it in a January article, that meant no testimony and no trial—and no revelation of what the paper describes as "easily verifiable" sex abuse allegations.
Catherine said in a 1999 interview they were both abused—"to the point where I would throw up"—by a male relative who was living with them. The children allegedly intended to kill him and their father as well. That part of the plan never came to pass. Fast-forward to today: Now 29, Curtis is an ordained minister who, as the Miami New Times puts it, has "never driven a car or sent a text message." And a former inmate tells Florida Today Curtis is exiting into a "world of trouble"—a reference to the second part of the siblings' sentences: probation for life (which means, among other things, no drinking to excess). "They'll never make it unless they're pure to the core." As for Catherine, a correspondence with a pen-pal turned into marriage in 2013. She is due to be released next month. (Read more Florida stories.)