CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. -- Children dealing with adult situations, and operating with juvenile minds.
That's how the defense for a Cumberland County teen describes what led 17-year-old Je'Michael Malloy to killing his young ex-girlfriend, 15-year-old Danielle Locklear, according to WTVD-TV.
"All we ask is for the public to remember is that you're talking about a 15-year-old victim and a 17-year-old defendant," said Fayetteville defense attorney D.W. Bray. "And we know 15-year-old kids don't make wise decisions, and neither do 17-year-old boys, and that what he is-a boy."
Earlier in the week, Malloy admitted to choking Locklear to death, then enlisting the help of a friend and classmate to dump the girl's body in the South River. That friend, 18-year-old Dominic Lock, was initially charged with conspiracy, but a day later faced second-degree murder charges along with Malloy.
The two are Cape Fear High School seniors. Locklear was a freshman at South View High School.
Wednesday evening, Lock posted a $100,000 bond. Efforts to reach out to him have been unsuccessful. Bray said he's advised Malloy to stay in jail, partly to "purge," and partly to separate from a community passionate about the high profile case.
"I think there's a sense of relief internally for him that he's admitted his level of culpability in this situation, and has been put in a position at least to start demonstrating some remorse and also moving forward. Also realizing that a substantial bit of his future may be impacted."
Bray said Malloy is a well-mannered teen who enjoyed fishing and hunting. He said he never had a violent history or a juvenile record. He was set to enlist in the Marines after graduation.
"We're not talking about a cold-hearted monster," he said. "We're talking about a very decent young man."
"I think it's important to note that Je'Michael came forward to law enforcement," added Bray. "This was lying heavily on his heart, and not only did he want to provide closure for Danielle's family, he wanted to provide closure for himself."
When asked why it took Malloy three weeks to confess, after he'd liked a Facebook page to "Help Find Danielle Locklear," and after he attended a memorial balloon release for the girl, Bray boiled it down to juvenile emotions.
"And well, that's a very reasonable question but again, we're talking about a 17 year old and a 17 year old with that stressful and heavy-some of a burden, it's not unreasonable to be silent."
"Lost in this--we don't want the focus to just be on the defendant or Danielle," he continued. "I think after all the facts come out in this case, this may be a learning experience for many young people in the community."
Locklear's family declined to immediately respond to Bray's comments, instead they say they'll do it as a large family unit, but they fiercely disagree with the attorney's thoughts.
Meanwhile, more than 14,000 supporters on the "Justice for Danielle Locklear" page are encouraging people to write Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West, and push him to seek first degree murder charges in the case. Sources close to the case maintain Malloy made prior threats to Locklear that would satisfy pre-meditation.
Bray said evidence would prove otherwise, but it may take up to 18 months for a true bill of indictment, and another year before the case is resolved through trial or a plea deal.