A 16-year-old girl is set to spend the next 20 years in prison after being found guilty of premeditated murder in Kandal province on Monday for drowning her 8-year-old neighbor in November in order to pawn the child’s jewelry, a court official said on Tuesday.
Oeun Sopheap, who has been in provisional detention since her arrest shortly after the murder, was brought to the Kandal Provincial Court on Monday and convicted of premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances but was spared a life sentence due to her age, according to deputy prosecutor Ek Sunreaksmey.
“She should be jailed for life, but she is just a 16-year-old juvenile, so the judge decided…that she can be sentenced to only 20 years,” he said, adding that Sopheap was sent back to the provincial prison “immediately upon her sentencing.”
The teenager was arrested on the evening of November 7, the day after she drowned Kiet Sievly in a stream in Kandal’s Ang Snuol district. Coveting her young neighbor’s earrings and ring, Sopheap had invited the girl to join her for a swim in the stream, according to police.
“They took a bicycle to the scene, where the suspect strangled the girl and held her head underwater while stepping on the back of her legs until she died,” district serious crimes police chief Thach Sovanna said at the time.
After the murder, Sopheap took the child’s jewelry to a local market and sold it for 110,000 riel, or about $27.50, according to police, who were able to link Sopheap to the crime when vendors who purchased the jewelry heard about Kiet Sievly’s disappearance.
James McCabe, director of operations for the nongovernment Child Protection Unit, which helped investigate the case, said the murder was motivated solely by greed.
“The motive was that she wanted the girl’s jewelry,” he said, adding that the harsh sentence handed to Sopheap was meant to keep her from reoffending.
“They’re scared she’ll do it again,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Janelle Retka)