NEW YORK – With her slight frame and big grin, Sharell Butler still looks like a child. But the 15-year-old has been charged as an adult with killing two men over three days, including one whose dismembered remains were found in a garbage bag.
Butler pleaded not guilty over the weekend 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.
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 from a Russian orphanage by a suburban couple, 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.
"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 deaths, including a 23-year-old man suspected of hindering prosecution.
Hopkins-Drago was killed in the 23-year-old's apartment, but it wasn't clear whether the man was there at the time. Officials said he may have tampered with crime scene evidence. It also wasn't clear Monday what roles the other three might have played in the killings.