Young Jamie Silvonek might have only been 14, but her intelligence and grown-up mannerisms defied her age. Adults spoke to her like an equal and her teachers accelerated her learning.
So when the young blonde caught the eye of an army cadet at a music gig in Pennsylvania in October 2014, Jamie had no problem persuading him she was about to turn 18.
Caleb Barnes was 20, and very taken with Jamie. She lived in Allentown and soldier Caleb was based two hours away in Fort Meade, Maryland, but they started a long-distance relationship.
However, Jamie soon had to admit that she was only 14. Caleb agreed to keep their relationship a secret and they sneaked around, hiding the relationship from Jamie’s parents, Cheryl and David.
But after five months Cheryl, 54, caught the couple in bed together in the basement of her home. Cheryl was furious and threw Caleb out, threatening to report him to the police for sex with an underage girl.
"If she calls the cops, I’ll lose my job," Caleb texted Jamie in a panic.
Jamie didn’t want to lose her boyfriend, so she tried to persuade her mum that Caleb was 16. Caleb even bought a fake birth certificate online.
"I feel like with my skills I can convince her to give you another shot," Jamie texted Caleb. "I need to regain my mother’s trust by convincing her you are really 16."
Jamie was clever, but Cheryl was no fool and told her daughter to stop seeing Caleb. Still, Jamie refused to give him up.
She had tickets to go and watch the rock band Breaking Benjamin with Caleb and she told her mum that she had to go.
"I feel so desolate, mother," she texted her. "My excitement for this had been the only thing getting me through. I’m going to have a mental breakdown. I need this."
Cheryl reluctantly agreed that she could go – but insisted that she drive them. Jamie knew she’d won this battle, but there would be more to come. In the week leading up to the concert, Caleb and Jamie exchanged more text messages.
"She needs to go, Caleb, right now," she wrote. One from Caleb read: "I have knives picked out."
"Just do it," Jamie wrote.
On the night of 14 March 2015, Cheryl drove the pair to the concert and went back in the early hours of the next morning to pick them up. Then she disappeared.
A few hours later, her SUV was found submerged in a pond a few miles from her home. It was covered in her blood. Police found her body nearby in a snow-covered shallow grave.
When police arrived at Cheryl’s home, her husband David had been looking for her. Jamie and Caleb were found naked in bed together – David didn’t even know Caleb was there.
"He’s a friend that mum knows about," Jamie told her dad.
Jamie and Caleb were arrested. An autopsy revealed that Cheryl had been beaten, strangled and stabbed five times. One stab wound pierced an artery, spraying blood throughout her car. She’d valiantly fought back, but had been overpowered.
When questioned, Jamie’s story changed countless times. She said Caleb had raped her, then said she’d covered up the crime because he’d threatened her. But there were text messages between Jamie and Caleb in the car driving back from the concert talking about going through with their plan.
Caleb said he’d killed Jamie’s mum so they could be together, and revealed that she’d begged for her life in her final moments.
"Just take my daughter," she had cried. "If you want her, take her."
They were both charged with first-degree murder. While in prison, Jamie told a friend in a phone call, "I’m losing more sleep over the way I was betrayed than the fact that I killed someone."
But she quickly became remorseful and changed her story when it came to facing a trial. She confessed to her part in the plot and made a plea deal. She agreed to testify against Caleb in return for a 35-year-to-life sentence.
In February this year, she pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, criminal conspiracy, evidence-tampering and abuse of a corpse. She was charged as an adult.
"I was a monster," Jamie told the court. "There is no sugar-coating it, and there is absolutely no sympathy."
Jamie said she and Caleb had talked about the killing for a week beforehand. She said she couldn’t carry on lying about the murder any more.
"My mother was the glue that held everything in my family together, including me," she said. "And I can’t look at myself in the mirror knowing that."
In August this year, Caleb faced his charges in court. He pointed the finger at his former girlfriend, while Jamie insisted he’d committed the act.
Jamie testified that they’d been in the SUV with her mum in the front seat and Caleb in the back. Parked in the driveway, Caleb had reached for Cheryl’s throat.
"He started to strangle her, and then eventually he stabbed her," Jamie said.
The pair had gone to a local Walmart to buy bleach and cleaning equipment. When they returned, they pushed the car into the pond and buried Cheryl. Jamie denied playing any ‘physical’ part in the murder, but admitted she’d urged Caleb to carry out the act so they could be together.
"I believe what I did was just as bad or worse than the physical act," she wept, saying she was taking accountability for her actions. Caleb stared angrily at her from across the room.
The prosecution revealed to the jury the text messages the young couple had exchanged leading up to the killing. They were also told about the horrific details of the murder. Caleb had seemingly punched, choked and stabbed Cheryl as she’d tried to push the knife away. They blamed each other
But Caleb denied that version and said he wasn’t even in the car at the time of the murder. He was planning to drive home and got into his car for a nap.
"Jamie woke me up by banging on my window," Caleb told the court. "She had blood on her hands and face."
Caleb said she’d dragged him to the SUV where he saw Cheryl was dead. Then Jamie told him that she’d killed her mum with one of his knives.
Caleb claimed Jamie had argued with her mum because she’d told her mum she was pregnant with Caleb’s baby. He recalled Jamie saying,
"My mum went crazy. She flipped out and attacked me and I couldn’t get her off."
Caleb said he helped cover it up because Jamie insisted she was pregnant.
"At this point I’m thinking I have a family to protect," he testified. "This girl just killed her mum, but she’s having my baby. I can’t let her go to prison."
Caleb said the text messages between them were just part of an ongoing joke they had.
"I thought she was joking. I hoped she was joking," he said. "You don’t want to believe that someone you love is capable of that."
His lawyers said his DNA was not found on Cheryl’s hands and they called Jamie a ‘manipulator’. But Caleb could have been wearing gloves and Jamie had never mentioned a baby.
After four days, the jury found Caleb guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He scowled at the verdict. This September he was given his mandatory life sentence.
The young lovers killed to stay together –but their actions have separated them forever.