Jasmiyah Whitefield's defense strategy began to take shape Monday morning during an unsuccessful bond hearing in Rockdale County Superior Court.
Jasmiyah and 16-year-old twin sister Tasmiyah were arrested May 21 and charged with killing their mother, Jarmecca "Nikki" Whitehead, at her Rockdale home. The girls, who will be tried together but have separate legal representation, deny any involvement in their mother's death.
"Based on what the district attorney has provided to the court, this is a completely circumstantial case," Jasmiyah's attorney, Dwight Thomas, told the AJC. "They are the ones who found her, who flagged a police officer down to report it and they didn't run."
And now it appears the girls have at least one ally within their family: great-grandmother Della Frazier, who they lived with for 1-1/2 years before returning to their mother's home on Jan. 5, eight days before the slaying.
"They were there on a two-week trial basis," Thomas said. "If they didn't like it, they could leave."
According to Thomas, the girls preferred living with their great-grandmother, who testified Monday that her granddaughter Nikki Whitehead was abusing drugs.
"This was a home where alcohol and narcotics were alleged to be abused," Thomas said. "And [Nikki Whitehead] lived with a man who was not their biological father."
Whitehead's boyfriend, Robert Head, told the AJC last week that his late ex-girlfriend had once struggled with drugs.
Several of Whitehead's friends said she was a devoted mother determined to repair the rift with her daughters.
Thomas alleges that someone else came to Whitehead's home and killed her.
"We're going to challenge every aspect of the state's case," said Thomas, whose high-profile client roster includes rapper and actor Clifford "T.I." Harris.
Thomas noted there was a sexual assault at the same residence two years earlier. The perpetrator was never captured, he said.
Following the denial of bond, Jasmiyah was returned to the Gwinnett Youth Detention Center. Sister Tasmiyah, tentatively scheduled for a bond hearing next week, remains at the Rockdale facility. They haven't seen or spoken to each other since their arrests. Neither girl has been indicted by the Rockdale County District Attorney's Office.
Rockdale District Attorney Richard Read told the AJC he is preparing findings to present to a grand jury. Jas and Tas will be tried as adults.
--Staff writer Mark Davis contributed to this report.