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15-year-olds charged in mother's death

LAWRENCEVILLE - Two 15-year-old girls will face criminal charges in connection with their mother's slaying at a Buford home over the weekend.

One of the daughters was charged with misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and the other was charged with misdemeanor evidence tampering in the death of their adoptive mother, 57-year-old Muriel O'Connell.

The girls were not identified because they are juveniles, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department. They had a first appearance in court Tuesday, but juvenile court hearings are not open to the public.

Circumstances surrounding 57-year-old Muriel O'Connell's death remained a mystery on Tuesday. Authorities were tight-lipped about the investigation, motive and cause of death, saying only that the case had been ruled a homicide by the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner's Office.

The two girls reportedly ran to a neighbor's house at about 11 p.m. Sunday seeking help. They told the neighbor, and later police, that one of the girls had been in a fight with their mother and their mother was dead. Investigators have not said whether the fight was verbal or physical.

"I can't go into it," Moloney said. "The investigation is ongoing. We're not finished."

Neighbors said the girls are from Guatemala and are students at Glenn C. Jones Middle School in Buford, but police could not confirm that information. One was adopted about four years ago and the other was adopted about a year ago, Moloney said.

No one was at the O'Connell house Tuesday except a crime scene investigator who stopped by to place a lock on the front door.

Four glass vases filled with fresh flowers lined the sidewalk in front of the one-story brick home in the 3400 block of Lost Meadows Court, in Seneca Farms subdivision off Ridge Road. One floral arrangement displayed a hand-written note stating "Muriel - you are gone but not forgotten."