On Friday, December 4th, Lancaster firefighters received a call from a home about a possible gas leak. When they arrived, they found two decapitated children at the home. The police were called immediately and, upon their arrival, they found the 12-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl in the home – both victims of what was almost assuredly murder. Bith victims also appeared to have suffered several lacerations and stab wounds. At this point, investigators do not believe that the decapitation was the cause of death.

After preliminary investigations at the scene, the suspect and the two victims’ father, was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken into custody in lieu of $2 million dollars bail. Aside from the suspect, three other people were in the house – the mother and two other siblings of the victims. One person was taken to the hospital to treat injuries. The person and their injuries have not been revealed.

Murder is covered under California Penal Code 187 and is described as “the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought.” The term “malice aforethought” can be a bit misleading, as anger or malice are not requirements to be charged with murder. Instead, “malice aforethought” means that the killer acted with wanton disregard for human life, and performs an action with a high degree of probability that it will result in death.

Murder can be charged as first-degree or second-degree. First-degree murder and can be charged when the suspect lies in wait for the victim, uses a destructive device to commit the crime, by torturing the victim, by way of a willful premeditated killing, or felony murder (a situation where during the commission of another felony, a person is killed).

First-degree murder generally carries the potential penalties of 25 years to life in prison. Second-degree murder is typically charged when there is no premeditation and the killing was not deliberate. Additionally, second-degree murder is usually charged in any murder that does not meet the criteria for first-degree murder. The penalties for second-degree murder include life with no possibility of parole, 20 years to life, and 25 years to life.