NEW YORK – With her slight frame and big grin, Sharrell Butler still looks like a child. But authorities say the 15-year-old girl killed two men over three days including one whose dismembered remains were found in a garbage bag.
Over the weekend, Butler, who has been charged as an adult, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the deaths of 24-year-old Christopher Umpierre on Dec. 19 and 22-year-old John Hopkins-Drago on Dec. 21. She was being held without bail Monday.
Her attorney, Xavier Donaldson, referred to her as "just a kid" and said she is scared, and her father, James Butler, told the Daily News of New York that he believes his daughter is innocent.
Police say Sharrell Butler and others stabbed Hopkins-Drago at an apartment in the Bronx, perhaps as many as 40 times. A superintendent found the dismembered body stuffed in a garbage can outside a building the same day he was killed.
Hopkins-Drago, who had been adopted by a suburban couple from a Russian orphanage, was estranged from his family and had a history of drug arrests, his brother, Patrick Hopkins-Drago, told the Journal News. He had been living on the streets but had not been reported missing.
According to his brother, the victim was apparently trying to turn his life around this fall, hoping to enroll in classes at Westchester Community College.
"He didn't deserve what he got," his mother, Ann Marie Hopkins, told the Daily News. "He's just an innocent kid."
Butler is also facing charges of criminal possession of a weapon and criminally negligent homicide in Hopkins-Drago's slaying. Prosecutors say she had a loaded gun at the time of the stabbing.
Officials said Monday that Butler may have killed Hopkins-Drago because she thought he might talk about the death of Umpierre, who was shot to death after a botched robbery at his apartment in the Bronx.
Authorities believe she and another suspect intended to rob Umpierre but no one else had been charged in that slaying as of Monday.
Butler's nickname was Lady Red, which authorities say may refer to the notorious Bloods street gang. Butler's attorney denied that his client was involved with gang activity.
Four other suspects were in custody Monday in connection with both of the deaths including James Medina, 23, who was arrested for hindering prosecution.
Hopkins-Drago was killed in Medina's apartment but it wasn't clear whether Medina was there at the time. Officials said he may have tampered with crime scene evidence. It also wasn't clear Monday what, if any, roles the other three may have played in the killings.