Curtis Fairchild Jones walked into prison a 12-year-old boy. On Tuesday morning, he walked out a 23-year-old free.

Prison officials confirmed that Jones was released from South Bay Correctional Facility, just south of Lake Okeechobee, shortly after 7 a.m. Jones has refused all interview requests from Florida Today and his attorney said there will be no statement made to the media.

He leaves prison a convicted murderer, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, a brother to a sister scheduled to be released from prison Saturday, and an ordained minister. Time will tell if he has had a chance to work through the demons that terrorized his childhood and drove him to take a life.

Curtis — along with Catherine, his older sister by a year — shot and killed their father’s girlfriend, Sonya Nicole Speights in 1999. They also had planned to kill their father and a male relative who they said was sexually molesting them. No one believed they were being abused, even after investigators from what is now the Department of Children and Families identified evidence of the abuse.

The siblings shot Speights with their father’s handgun, hitting her four times out of nine bullets fired.

They immediately realized their tragic blunder, tried to cover up the crime and ran to a neighbor’s house to say it was an accident. They eventually fled to a wooded area where they hid for the night before Brevard County Sheriff’s investigators found them near their Port St. John home on the morning of Jan. 7, 1999.

“The story of siblings Catherine Jones and Curtis Fairchild is a tragic tale of several people and systems that failed these two young victims before dumping them in prison,” said Ashley Nellis, senior research analyst with the Sentencing Project — a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group working to promote changes in sentencing policy among other reforms related to incarceration. “It seems that even a cursory look at their childhood environment and the backgrounds of their caretakers would have prompted grave concern and care rather than stiff prison terms.”

But facing life in prison after Brevard County, Fla., prosecutors made the kids the youngest ever charged as adults with first-degree murder, they remained quiet about the abuse. They pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and accepted the sentence of 18 years and probation for life.

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