Prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty against Candice Walton, the 16-year-old who appeared in Monroe County Superior Court for the first time Wednesday since being charged with killing her mother and brother on Feb. 27.
Assistant district attorney Elizabeth Bobbitt told the Reporter that while Walton is being charged as an adult, Georgia law doesn’t allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for those under 18. Walton was brought before Monroe County Superior Court Judge Tommy Wilson on Wednesday shortly after deputies brought her back to Forsyth from Kentucky.
Wearing a pink inmate uniform, a somber looking Walton told Wilson she understood the charges against her and her right to an attorney. She was seated beside public defender Rusty Knox. When the hearing was over, Walton was escorted back to a patrol car and to the Macon YDC, where she will be held.
Her only surviving brother, Eric Walton, was at the hearing, seeing his sister for the first time since their mother and brother died. Walton shook his head in disbelief after the hearing.
Sheriff Brad Freeman said authorities have questioned Candice Walton’s boyfriend, 17-year-old Kaleo Pangelion, in Oregon, where he moved from Forsyth this winter. Freeman said he’s still considered a witness but currently faces no charges related to the crime.
Walton is accused of burning down the family rental home at 2340 Old Zebulon Road, killing her mother, 46-year-old Tasha Vandiver, and brother, 21-year-old Gerald Walton. Authorities say she had stolen $2,300 from her mom’s tax refund, and her mom’s 2007 Chevy Malibu, and headed toward Oregon to be with Pangelion after setting the fire.
Firefighters found the bodies after being dispatched to the blaze around 3:30 a.m. Coroner Joey Proctor said both died of smoke inhalation. District attorney Jonathan Adams said there’s no evidence Walton used gas or any accelerant in setting the fire.
Candice Walton apparently then drove her mother’s car toward Oregon where Pangelion had moved from Forsyth. She got only as far as western Kentucky before McCracken County deputies took her into custody where she remains in jail. They found $2,300 in cash on her, which district attorney Jonathan Adams said is a key piece of the story and was likely stolen from the mother’s tax refund check. Adams said they also confiscated her phone and are waiting to see what communication she had during the night.
Eric Walton, has said he thinks the boyfriend should be charged too.
“As far as I’m concerned, he put her up to the whole thing,” said Eric Walton. “She would never have wanted to do this to her mother and brother. I guess she loved her boyfriend more than them.”
A former neighbor who used to babysit for the family, Vicky Pippin Jiminez, agreed.
“Candice was a good kid,” said Jiminez. “But when she started dating this boy, it got worse. She wanted to be with him more than them.”
Jiminez said Vandiver was a hard worker who cleaned homes to provide for her kids. Each child had a different father but Vandiver wanted them all to have the Walton name after she married Eric’s father, said Jiminez.
As for Gerald Walton, friends remember him as a kind young man with special needs who loved Mary Persons football and loved to fish.
Pangelion moved to Monroe County from Oregon last summer and then returned to Oregon late in the year. School officials said he spent about four months at Mary Persons as a junior. Candice Walton was a freshman. They started dating in October, said Eric Walton. Eric Walton said his mother never cared for Pangelion and was working to put a restraining order on him. Eric Walton said that Pangelion’s Instagram account, under the name “datboidown”, has as his bio, “Satan’s left hand man”.
Eric Walton said he last talked to his mother Wednesday. She had just received her tax refund and was looking to buy a truck. Eric Walton said she had also bought Candice Walton a new iPhone.
“She was always put first,” Eric Walton said of his sister.
Freeman said they have a lot of evidence against Candice Walton and that no drugs or alcohol were involved.
The murders come seven months after another teenager, 15-year-old Dante Krieger, was accused of raping and killing his aunt in Monroe County. Adams said while Monroe County enjoys relatively low crime, the two incidents are concerning.
“For two children to commit the worst crime is shocking,” said Adams. “It makes your realize how important our schools are and how important it is to do the best you can do at home. There’s definitely some evil in this world.”