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November 27, 2014

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Trial begins for teen girls in death of stepbrother

As they sat enveloped in their chairs for the opening of their murder trial, the two Henderson teenagers looked like little girls lost and not the calculating killers prosecutors portray them to be.

Traci Rutherford and Tiffany Robbins are petite and have the vulnerability of adolescence embracing their faces. And they are facing the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in prison for the strangulation slaying of Rutherford's stepbrother.

The pair, both 15 at the time Michael O'Rourke was killed on Feb. 28, admitted their participation in statements they gave to police, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent told the jury during opening statements Tuesday.

Christopher Kyriacou, the girls' 19-year-old friend who wrapped a television cable around the victim's neck allegedly while they watched, already has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and agreed to become the state's star witness.

The question for the jury may be to determine what crime each girl committed.

Robbins' attorney, John Momot, said that while his client was involved, "she didn't believe anything would really happen."

Momot told the jury that they "will have to be the voice of reason to determine if she was an active and knowing participant in the events."

Laurent detailed how the trio, after deciding O'Rourke should die, talked about how the deed should be done. A decision was made to strangle O'Rourke, the prosecutor told the jury in District Judge Don Chairez's courtroom.

Although Laurent did not detail a motive for the slaying, authorities had indicated that O'Rourke's stereo system, CD collection and car were coveted for what they could bring when sold.

Laurent said that in the murder plot, Rutherford let her friends into the home and Robbins distracted the victim with a question about her hair while Kyriacou sneaked up from behind and wrapped the cord around his neck.

The trio had agreed to say they were at the Galleria mall, but the plan fell apart because Rutherford told police that another friend was with them, but that friend wouldn't support the story.

Rutherford's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Roger Hillman, lamented the "tragedy" that had occurred after the trio had smoked marijuana but asked the jury to keep an open mind about each defendant's involvement.

Momot said Robbins had a history of "huffing" glue to get high and that she was "not a knowing participant in the ultimate tragedy."

Kyriacou, who is known as "Bubba," pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy in a deal that will keep him behind bars for at least 20 years.

But he can withdraw his guilty plea if Chairez decides that the murder charge requires a sentence of life with no chance of parole. If Chairez does give the life term with the possibility of parole, he still has the option under the deal to add on a 10- to 26-year sentence for the robbery and conspiracy charges

O'Rourke was found lying face down on the kitchen floor when his mother returned from work to their home at 348 Keating St., off Pecos and Warm Springs roads.

The cable was still tied around his neck and there was evidence of a struggle after his ambush.

The car stereo, compact discs and O'Rourke's wallet were found inside Kyriacou's apartment, along with gloves believed to have been used in the murder, according to Henderson Police.

The car, a red 1991 Ford Probe, had been taken from the house and was found abandoned in the 2000 block of Ramrod Avenue in Henderson.

The girls are facing charges as adults under the Nevada law that automatically certifies as adults people charged with murder or attempted murder.

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