PROVO — If it hadn't been for the encouragement and assistance of an older friend, a 16-year-old Spanish Fork girl would not have taken her own life earlier this year.
That was the argument prosecutors made Tuesday as they pushed a judge to order Tyerell Przybycien, 18, to stand trial for murder in the death of 16-year-old Jchandra Brown.
"He had a fascination with death," prosecutor Chad Grunander said. "He used her suicidal ideations for his own purpose."
The hearing, a continuation of the preliminary hearing that began in August, concluded without a bindover decision, however, as 4th District Judge James Brady took the matter under advisement, saying he will likely issue a written ruling later this week.
Brown was found dead near Maple Lake in Payson on May 6, the morning after Grunander explained Przybycien bought the items used in the suicide, which he did because she didn't have money herself. He then took her to the location he had scouted out and helped prepare the scene for her death, Grunander said.
"He helped tie the rope up to the tree," Grunander told the judge. "He admitted to researching tying the noose and then tying the noose because Jchandra didn't know how to do it."
But Przybycien's attorney, Gregory Stewart, argued as he has in written briefings that the man's actions don't fit requirements for a murder charge, but that Brown was knowingly responsible for her own death. He went on deny that Przybycien knew beforehand Brown would die that day.
"If she hadn't have called that night, Tyerell wouldn't have gone to help her," Stewart said.
A recording of the girl's death, captured on her cellphone by Przybycien, was played during the August hearing as prosecutors presented evidence surrounding Brown's suicide. That hearing continued Tuesday as Grunander laid out examples of other defendants' involvement in cases from Utah and around the country of manslaughter and murder cases, arguing that Przybycien's actions went beyond even those.
While it's clear the 16-year-old took part in her own death, Grunander said, if it hadn't been for Przybycien's preparations, encouragement and direct participation, the teen wouldn't have died.
"The defendant's actions are indispensable in Jchandra's death," Grunander said.
But Stewart emphasized that the video of Brown's death, as well as surveillance recordings from the two stores she visited with Przybycien beforehand, showed Brown was not forced at any point into taking her own life.
Grunander said there are important steps of the suicide process that were not captured by Przybycien's video, which could mean he was involved even more in assisting her. He said it's unlikely that Przybycien spent weeks beforehand and hours that night preparing Brown to take her own life, then stepped back and didn't participate in those "pivotal moments."
"Those are gaps that need to be filled in," the prosecutor said.
As Brown's family left the courtroom Tuesday, her mother spoke only briefly, insisting, "Friends don't let friends die; Tyerell was not a friend."
Przybycien and Brown were both students at Spanish Fork High, though school officials said at the time of the girl's death that Przybycien hadn't attended since March.
Przybycien is charged with murder, a first-degree felony, and desecration of a human body, a class B misdemeanor. He is also facing charges in a separate, ongoing case that remains on hold while the murder charge is adjudicated.
In that case, police who obtained a warrant to search Przybycien's phone after his arrest reported they found child pornography and he was later charged with five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.
The Utah Department of Health offers suicide prevention help at utahsuicideprevention.org/suicide-prevention-basic. The national crisis hotline is 800-784-2433.