Originally created 02/26/03

Teenager admits 3-year-old slaying of best friend



CLARKSTON, Ga. -- For three years it was a haunting mystery: a 10-year-old girl found strangled in a bottle-strewn gully behind her apartment complex.

Police said Eva Kandundu, whose body was half-covered by brush, was last seen by friends talking to a man dressed in jeans and a red jacket near the tennis courts at Cedar Pines Apartments. That touched off fears of a stranger stalking children in this suburban Atlanta community.

Then Gov. Roy Barnes offered a $3,000 reward to help find the killer.

The mystery ended two weeks ago when a Druid Hills High School junior admitted she had strangled her best friend with a shoelace.

The girl, who was 13 at the time, said Eva threw a pine cone at her, causing her to drop her sunflower seeds, District Attorney J. Tom Morgan said.

She pleaded guilty to the Jan. 17, 2000 slaying on Monday in DeKalb County Juvenile Court. Convicted of voluntary manslaughter, she faces up to five years imprisonment, Morgan said.

Defense lawyer Linda Pace said the 16-year-old was consumed with guilt.

"She has expressed that she did not mean to kill her best friend," Pace said.

Officials said she confessed to her parents two weeks ago after watching a television report about the unsolved killing.

The girl had been a suspect before.

On Nov. 21, 2001, a caller who identified herself as "Kathy" dialed 911 from a telephone booth near Druid Hills High and accused the teenager of the killing Eva, Morgan said. The caller knew details about the case that were known only to authorities.

After examining voice recordings, police concluded that "Kathy" was actually the teenager herself. They questioned her, but she did not confess at the time.

Morgan said the girl will be sentenced after psychiatric evaluation.

The prosecutor said he decided not to charge her as an adult because of her remorse, her age at the time of the crime and because she is a good student.

"These are tough decisions," Morgan said. "I did it with the victim's mother's backing and with consideration of the circumstances."