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Three Girls Charged in Death of Classmate After Video Captures Beating in School

Sixteen-year-old AmyJoyner-Francis died after three of her peers assaulted her at school—and early reports indicate the attack was premeditated.
Image by Quinn Dombrowski

Three high school girls were charged this week for beating their classmate to death in the bathroom of Howard High School in Delaware. The three allegedly attacked AmyJoyner-Francis, 16, on the morning of April 21, before classes started, as students were still arriving to school. Joyner-Francis was airlifted to an area hospital where she was later pronounced dead.

After reviewing cell phone video of the attack, the Delaware Department of Justice is seeking to try one of the girls, Trinity Carr, as an adult for negligent homicide, which is punishable by up to eight years in prison. The other two girls were charged with criminal conspiracy and will be tried as juveniles.


Following an autopsy, the medical examiner ruled the cause of death was two-fold—sudden cardiac death resulting from Joyner-Francis's pre-existing heart condition, combined with the stress of the attack. "The cardiac incident would not have occurred if she had not been assaulted," authorities said. While the autopsy didn't reveal any internal injuries from the attack or blunt force injuries, "a contributing factor (was) physical and emotional stress due to physical assault," the attorney general said in a statement.

According to multiple reports, the video shows Carr hitting Joyner-Francis repeatedly in the head and torso.

New details are emerging that the girls had been plotting against the victim, though investigators are not yet saying they've found a motive for the attack. "All of the evidence indicates that although three girls were involved in planning a confrontation with Amy on April 21, only one girl—Trinity Carr—actually hit Amy," the DOJ said Monday in a press release.

"Teenage girls when acting in concert can be very dangerous," forensic psychologist N.G. Berrill told Broadly. "The stereotype of being antisocial and aggressive personality is typically thought of as a male thing. The truth is group-think or pack behavior can move teenage girls to behave much like boys."

Berrill added that, in many cases, once the girls are separated from each other, their behavior often changes. "You might see some capacity for remorse, empathy, regret; however, the humanity you would hope to encounter does not always emerge," Berrill says.


"Serious crimes committed by teens always get a closer look into the psychological functioning of the individual," says Berrill. "When limitations are revealed—impaired cognitive functioning, gross immaturity, psychopathology or other mitigating circumstances—the adolescent may catch a break."

The city of Wilmington has held a town hall, and there have been vigils for the victim's family and friends. "This is not only an unspeakable tragedy for her family, but also for the school, and the entire community," the school district wrote in a statement on their website. "We are shaken but stand ready to provide support and care to the family, to Howard students and staff, and to all of those affected by this senseless act."

"All I know is that my daughter's gone and she was the love of my life," the victim's father said, through tears, in a local news interview. "I thought that the schools were a safe place, that you could drop [your children] off and they would come home after school."