In January 2016, a fire destroyed the home where Zoe Bryan, then 15 years old, lived with her parents. During the next year, she and her then-boyfriend, Kyle Parrish, conspired to kill their parents, presumably because they were prohibited from seeing each other.
Friday afternoon, Bryan, now 18, walked free after a judge reduced her 15-year sentence to probation. Bryan had received that sentence as a juvenile after pleading guilty last year, but was re-sentenced in McCracken Circuit Court on Friday following her 18th birthday.
Bryan's attorney, Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto, attributed the ruling to the success of the juvenile justice system.
"The legislature of Kentucky chose to have a juvenile code that focused on the rehabilitation of children, whether they were in juvenile court or circuit court," said DiLoreto, who heads the Institute for Compassion in Justice.
"The commonwealth of Kentucky invested in this rehabilitation program and it worked," she told McCracken Circuit Judge Tim Kaltenbach.
Kaltenbach heard testimony from a Department of Juvenile Justice employee who said Bryan excelled while at the Morehead Youth Development Center, and that she had "internalized treatment."
Kaltenbach questioned Bryan's father, John Bryan, as to his certainty he wanted his daughter back after she had burned down his home and plotted to kill him.
"I've seen through counseling how she's progressed and gotten better and taken responsibility," John Bryan said.
He said his daughter had not been taking her prescribed medication and had been socializing with people who influenced her for the worse.
Zoe Bryan also spoke briefly with Kaltenbach, calling her decisions "childish and juvenile and disastrous."
"These are the mistakes that I never want to make again," she told Kaltenbach, thanking him for sending her to Morehead and giving her the opportunity to improve herself.
"It showed me the person that I want to be and I'm going to be."
Bryan's stepmother -- her biological mother died while Bryan was incarcerated -- and Bryan's maternal grandmother also testified that they wanted Bryan to return home.
Kaltenbach noted that support, and also said he didn't want to send the message that flourishing in rehabilitation programs should be rewarded with prison time.
"If I didn't (probate the sentence), then it just seems to me that there's little incentive for people to do what you've done here," he said.
Kaltenbach added, given the severity of the crimes, he would not have probated the sentence if Bryan hadn't done so well while in custody.
As part of the terms of her probation, she may not have any contact with Parrish, and cannot use drugs or alcohol.
Kaltenbach specifically admonished her not to "self-medicate" to address her mental health, and to continue with regular counseling.
"If you're having mental health issues, talk to your counselor and have those treated properly," he said. "You've done so well and I'd hate for that in any way to be changed."
Bryan pleaded guilty last year to one count each of second-degree arson and conspiracy to commit first-degree manslaughter, and was given her original sentence in April of last year.
Parrish also previously pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge. He was initially sentenced to 10 years, but released on probation at a re-sentencing hearing following his 18th birthday.