A preliminary hearing heard on Tuesday how a teenager girl was beaten with a metal pole before being dumped in a creek and left to drown after surviving the initial attack.
According to harrowing reports, Ta’Niya Merriweather, Erin Taylor and Tyeshia Whisenant, all 16, have been charged with capital murder in the case of Lesley Luna Pantaleon, who went missing on June 24.
Authorities were tipped off about a possible body in the Catoma Creek area close to Montgomery Regional Airport, Alabama on July 4. Skeletal remains, later identified as Pantaleon’s, where recovered.
As per detective Ashley Brown, the victim’s cellphone records helped link Taylor, Merriweather and Whisenant to the crime. The three accused are all said to have admitted in interviews that the catalyst for the events was a missing gun.
The Montgomery Advisor relays how the gun was supposedly taken from Pantaleon in the days leading up to her death. She went to go get it back on the night of June 24, from an address she was given.
One attorney said on Tuesday that Pantaleon allegedly “put out a hit” on the address where Whisenant lived, though it was believed Taylor’s cousin was responsible for taking the gun.
Detective Brown told how Whisenant and Pantaleon got into a physical altercation at the home, before the victim and her three attackers, plus a juvenile boy who has not been named, got into a vehicle and drove away.
During the resulting journey, Whisenant and the young boy were involved in another fight with Pantaleon in the backseat. Taylor, behind the wheel of the vehicle, pulled over in the woods, where Pantaleon was then attacked with a metal pole taken from a gate.
Arrest affidavits of the case say that Pantaleon was also stabbed, before being left in the woods. The four attackers are then said to have driven back to Whisenant’s house and roused another girl, to whom they confessed their crimes and offered the opportunity to see Pantaleon’s body.
When they reached Pantaleon, Whisentant allegedly said that she “needed to be taken care of,” after seeing that her feet were still moving.
Pantaleon was picked up and put in the back of the vehicle, along with the metal pole. Detective Brown said: “They take her on a long, bumpy road for a couple of minutes, get to a creek and river area, then they threw her in the river.
“The pole was also thrown in the river. According to Tyeshia, it appeared the victim was trying to swim.”
Despite the harrowing events of the night, the group then headed to McDonald’s and purchased smoothies at around 6 a.m. Police recovered the vehicle, which belonged to Pantaleon, from the parking lot of a nearby church.
Ben Schoettker, representing Whisenant, argued to the court that his client shouldn’t be facing a capital murder charge – a crime applied when a homicide occurs during the commission of another felony offense – because there was no robbery.
“If you look at the situation logically, it’s not a robbery and its not a capital murder,” he said.
“What happened is terrible. It’s not capital murder. There’s no evidence that they killed this person to get a car and a cellphone. They killed this person because of a dispute, and it got out of hand. No one wanted her car or her cellphone.”
Prosecutor Scott Green, however, argued: “I do think this was a heinous and cruel capital murder. What we have is a teenage girl literally beaten so badly that the medical examiner had to take a guess as to what caused her death,” he said.
“This is not because she made a phone call. That may have been what kicked it off, but once these four people became angry with her, she never stood a chance. They took her stuff and they took her and they beat her more and threw her in the creek to drown her or for her to die from her injuries. She would have been better off in a car with four monsters than with these people. They’re exactly where they belong.”
As per reports, Judge Monet Gaines declined to rule immediately on if the cases would move forward as capital murder cases.
It shocks me to my core to read such stories. A young girl has lost her life under the most tragic of circumstances.
Rest in peace, Lesley Luna Pantaleon, you’ll feel no more pain now. I can only imagine the suffering her family must be going through.
Share this article to send your love and support to the victim’s family, and if you hope that the monsters that committed this callous act face the justice they deserve.