An 18-year-old high school cheerleader has been charged with being an accessory to murder in connection with the kidnapping, torture and beating death of a 50-year-old homeless man.
Hailey Suder, of Santee, is accused of watching her boyfriend, Austin Mostrong, and his brother, Preston Mostrong, kill George Lowery in April in Santee, California, NBC San Diego reports.
Suder is suspected of being present when Lowery was killed, and helping the brothers escape, but police do not believe she took part in the attack, the news station reports. She was initially charged with first-degree murder, but the charge was dropped Monday. She has pleaded not guilty.
She was a senior at Santana High School at the time of the beating. The brothers were arrested in early May and have been held on $3 million bail since.
“This was a brutal, heinous, just cold-hearted case, and as the evidence comes out, I’d say the murder charges and the torture charges are very much warranted in this case,” Deputy District Attorney George Modlin told reporters after the Mostrongs were arraigned in May.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Victim’s Family Says He Was Killed for Protecting Another Homeless Man Who the Brothers Were Shooting at With a Paintball Gun
The victim, George Lowery, lived in a homeless encampment along the San Diego River with his wife, Penny, who found her unconscious husband on April 24, NBC San Diego reports.
Penny Lowery said George was killed in revenge because he protected a fellow homeless man a week before, she told the news station in May.
“They were shooting him with a paintball gun. My husband took the paintball gun from him,” Penny Lowery told NBC San Diego.
His daughter, Katey Torres, set up a GoFundMe account to help the family.
“My mother Penny found her husband of 25 years brutally beaten, bloody, tied up, face down and unconscious. Covered up to die. When the ambulances arrived they preformed life saving measures he was taken to the hospital in critical condition and was told there was no hope for him surviving,” Torres wrote.
She said her father was declared brain dead and died April 29 after donating his organs:
He suffered a stroke and two brain hemorrhages over the course of 5 days that our family spent every second by his side in that hospital. My father was a generous man. Although he did not have much he was always giving. Anyone he came across loved his personality and he was always talking to people. Anyone he saw that needed help or just needed a smile he’d be there lifting your spirits. If someone was in need he would do what he could to help, no matter how hard the task. If he came across good fortune, he shared it. His whole life revolved around his wife Penny. Working and doing any handy work he could to provide for him and his wife and family.
“This was not a random act,” San Diego County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Kenneth Nelson told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “… I can’t think of another reason other than viciousness. Why else make a special trip down to the riverbed?”
2. Suder Was Arrested a Day After She Was Supposed to Graduate From High School
Hailey Suder was arrested after a traffic stop near her Santee home on June 17, NBC San Diego reports. She was supposed to have graduated from Santana High School the night before, but school officials told the news station she did not.
She posted on Twitter on June 14 that she wasn’t able to walk at graduation because one of her final grades was too low.
Suder was a cheerleader at Santana High School, according to her Facebook page.
3. Her Boyfriend & His Brother, Who Both Have Criminal Records, Have Pleaded Not Guilty
Austin and Prestong Mostrong have pleaded not guilty and have been held on $3 million bail since their first court appearance in May.
Both brothers have criminal records, NBC San Diego reports. Preston Mostrong pleaded guilty to petty theft in 2014 and was given three years of probation. Austin Mostrong pleaded guilty to two counts of battery and resisting an officer in April. He pleaded guilty to those misdemeanor charges and was given probation.
His older brother, Austin, was charged with two counts of battery and resisting an officer just four days before the alleged riverbed attack. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanors and given probation. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, that arrest, on April 20, was for an attack on two other homeless men.
“It’s a very horrific crime,” Lieutenant Kenneth Nelson told the newspaper about the beating of Lowery. Nelson said they are “attacking some of the most vulnerable in our society.”
4. Friends Say She Was a ‘Nice Girl’ Who Began to Change After She Started to Date Austin Mostrong
Neighbors and friends described Hailey Suder a a “nice girl,” according to NBC San Diego. One friend, who asked not to be named, said she started to change after dating Austin Mostrong.
“If you know they’re beating the guy to death, stop it. Do anything you can. Yell for help,” neighbor Lisa Kruis said. “Remember that some day that could be you. You never know where life’s going to take you.”
A classmate, Justin Fejeran, told NBC San Diego, “No one knew it was her. That’s the shocking part, is that we remember hearing about it in Santana but no one ever thought it was one of us. So that’s the shocking part, really.”
5. She Faces More Than 3 Years in Prison if Convicted
Hailey Suder was released after posting $100,000 bail. She had been held at the Los Colinas Detention Facility since her arrest, according to San Diego County Sheriff’s Department records. She is facing a felony charge of accessory to murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 3 years and 8 months in prison.
She was initially charged with first-degree murder, a charge that carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, police said.
Suder appeared in court for the first time on June 20, where she broke down crying as the charges against her were read. Her next court appearance is scheduled for July 29.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department does not release mugshots or booking photos, according to department policy.