One of five Wake County teens accused of robbing and killing Regynald Brown, a man living in a tent along a Southeast Raleigh greenway, pleaded guilty to murder on Wednesday.
Angel Sean Muniz, 17, was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, but because of his age will be eligible for parole in 25 years.
Brown, the father of three daughters, was down on his luck in 2012, picking up construction work when he could. He had been living with friends, and sometimes in a tent that he pitched near the Walnut Creek Trail leg of the Capital Area Greenway in Southeast Raleigh.
Muniz was one of five boys accused of robbing and bludgeoning Brown to death in December 2012, then hiding his body inside a city-issued garbage cart in a tunnel along the greenway.
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The boys lived near the city trail.
While hanging out at the park or in someone’s home, the boys affiliated with each other under the gang name BMS, or Big Money Swag. The older teens laid out challenges for the younger ones “to earn stars” – a loose ranking system, or hierarchy grounded in robberies and attacks on the homeless in their midst.
Though the accused teens have provided a series of inconsistent stories since their detention in December, the overarching outline remains similar.
Sometime in late November or early December, one of the boys decided they would go as a group to the Walnut Trail, where some of Wake County’s homeless congregated. Their intent was robbery, or “a lick,” as they called the thievery, according to testimony.
One afternoon, at about 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m., Brown was coming along the trail on the bicycle he used for transportation, according to testimony in previous hearings.
Two of the boys hid behind a wooden-bridge rail, and others climbed high enough on another structure so they were screened from plain view.
One of the boys, according to several of their stories, threw a rock that was at least the size of a baseball onto Brown’s head. They knocked him off his bike and then began beating him.
Muniz hit Brown on the head three times with a rock, according to prosecutors.
The boys left Brown badly beaten on the trail and went back either the next day or several days later to hide his body in a roll-out garbage cart, prosecutors have said.
The address on that cart led investigators to the five accused in the homicide.
Though the cases started in juvenile court, the judge decided there was enough evidence to move four of the cases into an adult system that gives little lenience for their age.
Under North Carolina law, cases of anyone 13 or older charged with first-degree murder must be transferred to adult court.
Raheem Hall and Tereise Massenburg also face first-degree murder charges in the case. Tyrell Hamilton is charged with second-degree murder. Their cases are pending.
A teen who was 13 at the time of the killing struck a deal with prosecutors in which he agreed to testify if his case remained in the juvenile system, where his identity is publicly shielded.