Florida teen charged with killing mother, burying her body over poor grade

A 15-year-old was charged with murder after confessing to killing his mother, 46-year-old Gail Cleavenger, (pictured above) over a poor school grade, authorities said. Photo courtesy Volusia County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

Nov. 4 (UPI) — A Florida teenager was charged with murder after confessing to killing his mother over a poor grade report, authorities said.

The 15-year-old boy confessed to strangling his mother, 46-year-old Gail Cleavenger, with a rope in their family’s home early Friday then using a wheelbarrow to load her into her van and bury her beneath a fire pit, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.

He also implicated two friends, who he said helped him bury his mother and stage a burglary at his home. The two other teens are facing undisclosed criminal charges, the sheriff’s office said.

The teenager and the two 17-year-old co-defendants appeared in juvenile court Sunday, ABC News reported. None of the defendants entered any pleas and it wasn’t immediately clear if they would be tried as adults.

Volusia County Judge Angela Dempsey said the murder suspect will be “detained by the Department of Juvenile Justice in secure detention for 21 days or until further court order” and the two other juveniles were released to home detention to be tracked by ankle monitors, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

The sheriff said the attack took place after Cleavenger called her husband — the teen’s stepfather — Thursday night to inform him about her son’s D grade and an argument that took place after she learned of it, while he was away on a business trip in Washington state.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said the teen was motivated by “rage” as he carried out the killing.

“Apparently there was a dispute about [grading] marks with his mother, and after an argument that occurred around 11 o’clock, around 12:30 he went into her room and woke her up and began to strangle her until he killed her,” he said.

Chitwood said investigators spent hours talking with the teen, as he told them his mother was killed in a burglary.

“He believed he was the smartest person in the room and he continued to tell us his theories of what he believed and why: what happened to his mom and where we should be focusing our attention,” Chitwood said.

Authorities found the door to the house kicked down, the house ransacked and Cleavenger’s truck running in the driveway after the teen reported the burglary to police on Friday afternoon.
At some point during conversations with investigators the teen confessed to carrying out the murder and staging the burglary with the two other teens.

“The case we worked tonight was one of the most disturbing and saddest I’ve seen in my career. I have a feeling this is a case we’ll be hearing about for years to come,” Chitwood said.


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