Utah teen charged with murder in fatal shooting of his little sister

The girl was sitting on the couch doing online schoolwork when her brother shot her, court documents say.

(Salt Lake City Police) A 16-year-old boy was charged with murder Wednesday after prosecutors say he shot and killed his 13-year-old sister at her Salt Lake City home on April 26, 2023.

A 16-year-old boy was charged with murder on Wednesday after prosecutors said he shot and killed his 13-year-old sister at her Salt Lake City home last month.

On the afternoon of April 26, Joseph Landers was at home near Sherwood Park with his sister, Angelica Hernandez, who attended an online school while he was sitting on the couch, court documents say. Three other boys were sitting on the couch with Angelica and the group was chatting when Joseph pulled a gun from his pocket and said, “Who’s trying to get caught?”

Angelica told her brother to shut up, the indictment documents state: “Because what if you accidentally pull it?” Joseph then loaded a magazine into the gun and cocked it back to scare her, the children who witnessed told police. Joseph then pointed the gun at the girl so that the gun’s laser sight was aimed at her head.

Then Joseph said, “Oh, do you want me to shoot her right here?” Right here?” while Angelica sat still, court documents say. He then pulled the trigger, and after the shot was fired, Landers said, “S—, s—, s—, Kica.” Court documents indicate that “Kica” was a nickname for Angelica.

Joseph then ran to his mother, who was on the phone in her room, the documents say.

“Mom, mom, I want my mom. I’m so sorry I shot Kica,” Joseph said, according to court documents. The woman went to check on her daughter and found her bleeding on the couch.

Joseph then ran out of the house and later texted his mother, “Mom, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to go to Mom,” according to court documents.

The brother was later found on a Utah Transit Authority bus less than half a mile from the home. He initially told police that his friend shot Angelica and that he ran away because he didn’t want to see what happened to her, court documents say. He later admitted to shooting his sister.

“The defendant had no regard for the safety or life of others, including his little sister,” a Salt Lake County prosecutor wrote in the indictment. “The ongoing criminal behavior and escalation of violence demonstrate that the accused poses a significant threat to the community and the witnesses who watched him shoot the victim.”

Joseph’s cited juvenile delinquency as a minor is not public knowledge, however the indictment documents in the murder case refer to Joseph being charged as an adult. The indictment shows that the boy has previously been convicted in a juvenile court of offenses including burglary, unlawful control of a vehicle and theft of a vehicle.

According to court documents, Salt Lake City police seized a 9mm semi-automatic handgun with an extended magazine and an attached laser sight from the home where Angelica was shot. Investigators also found a spent cartridge case at the scene.

Joseph faces two Offenses in the murder case: First-degree murder and possession or use of a firearm by a disabled person, court records say. Because of his conviction for a criminal offense before the juvenile court, the boy faces increased penalties.

The origin of the weapon Prosecutors say Joseph used it Involvement in the shooting remains unclear, a spokesman for the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office said. Prosecutors are not bringing charges against the children’s mother, the spokesman added.

In the state of Utah there are no legal requirements for the safekeeping of firearms. State lawmakers in April rejected a measure that would have required gun security and criminal liability for gun owners if an individual accessed an owner’s unsecured firearm and committed a crime.

The brother is currently being held at the Salt Lake Valley Juvenile Detention Center. A court hearing in the case is scheduled for May 15.

Justin Scaccy

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