Provo • A Utah judge is weighing whether to move forward the case for an 18-year-old who is accused of helping a teen girl commit suicide and filming the act.
Tyerell Przybycien is charged in 4th District Court with first-degree felony murder, as well as a misdemeanor count for failure to report a dead body.
Prosecutors say his actions in helping 16-year-old Jchandra Brown plan her hanging death in a wooded area in Payson Canyon in May were criminal.
But Przybycien’s attorneys argue that it was the ultimately the girl’s own choice to commit suicide.
Following an August preliminary hearing, attorneys on Tuesday argued whether there was enough evidence for Judge James Brady to order Przybycien to stand trial on the murder charge.
Przybycien’s attorney Gregory Stewart argued that while his client may have provided the materials for Brown’s suicide, the girl ultimately made the decision to kill herself — and could have changed her mind at any time.
She chose to climb on a makeshift rock pedestal and place the noose around her neck, he argued. And it was her choice, he said, to take a hit from a can of compressed air, which caused her to pass out, slip from the rocks and hang herself.
“Those were actions that she took,” the defense attorney argued.
But prosecutors argued that while Brown was suicidal, she was “malleable and otherwise impressionable.”
Without Przybycien’s help — which included buying the rope, tying a noose and setting up the pedestal for her to stand on — Brown likely would not have died that night, Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander argued.
In addition, Przybycien deceived Brown, Grunander said, by telling her that he would kill himself after her death.
He also bragged to others before her death that he was going to “help kill” Brown, the prosecutor said in written arguments filed ahead of Tuesday‘s hearing.
“He had a fascination with death,” Grundander argued Tuesday. “… He used her suicidal ideations for his own purposes.”
Judge Brady must find whether there is “probable cause” for the case to move forward — a much lower standard than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” required by a jury at trial. He must also look at the evidence in a light that is most favorable to prosecutors.
The judge told attorneys on Tuesday that he plans to file a written ruling in the case by the end of the week.
People who have suicidal thoughts can call 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition’s website for help. A smartphone application called SafeUT also allows users to chat or call a crisis counselor, and submit tips.