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Girls indicted in mother's slaying

LAWRENCEVILLE - Two Buford girls were indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on two murder counts in the August slaying of their 57-year-old adoptive mother, but the state is not seeking the death penalty.

Catherine and Brenda O'Connell, both 15, were indicted on one count of murder, one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, according to the bill of indictment.

Gwinnett County deputy chief assistant district attorney Dan Mayfield said both are being tried as adults in the strangulation death of their adopted mother, Muriel O'Connell.

Both girls could face life in prison if convicted.

Before the indictment, the girls were charged with misdemeanors in Juvenile Court, Mayfield said.

However, a murder case is what some prosecutors refer to as one of the "seven deadly sins," which include armed robbery, kidnapping, rape and aggravated child molestation, Mayfield said.

Juveniles charged with these types of crimes are automatically tried as adults.

Mayfield would not comment on whether negotiations for lesser charges or sentences were in the works.

Both girls were adopted by O'Connell, one about four years ago and the other about a year ago, and are of Guatemalan descent. According to previous reports, the girls ran to a neighbor's house about

11 p.m. Aug. 6, telling the neighbor that there had been a fight and their mother was dead.

Mayfield would not disclose any possible motives in the case. He did say, however, that the slain mother had a knife in her hand when the body was found.

Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department, would not comment on the specifics of the case, but he did say officials are awaiting the results of evidence from the scene that was submitted to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

No trial date had been set as of press time Wednesday, as the defendants have not been arraigned.