Endangerment suspects move forward in court

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One suspect pleads guilty to reduced charge; another received a date for a hearing.

Two child endangerment cases involving filthy, unsanitary conditions moved forward Tuesday at the Cape Girardeau County courthouse in Jackson.

In one case, a mother pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in exchange for probation. In another, the father of six children received a date for a preliminary hearing.

As he studied photos taken inside Terri M. Duncan's apartment at 426 North St. in April, Judge William Syler said it had the appearance of "some kind of junk pile."

And he questioned whether any trash had been removed from the home in years.

Then he ordered Duncan, 26, to be on probation for two years for her guilty plea to endangering the welfare of a child. Cape Girardeau assistant prosecutor Julie Hunter agreed to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor in exchange for the plea.

When police visited the home in April, Terri Duncan lived there with her three children and an adult male, Jeffrey D. Anderson, 26.

Duncan arrived in court in a wheelchair with her husband, Joshua Duncan, and one of her three children. When Syler asked if she was wearing pajamas, she replied that it was a track suit.

Terri Duncan said she uses the wheelchair outside her home because of medical problems that limit her mobility.

As he questioned her about the guilty plea, Syler told Duncan to "tell me what you did."

"I didn't keep my house clean," she replied.

"That is certainly a matter of degree," Syler said.

Duncan explained that the mess grew while her husband was in jail and she was left to take care of the children on her own. "It got overwhelming for me," she told Syler.

Joshua Duncan served 90 days in the Cape Girardeau County Jail for three counts of endangering the welfare of a child because of almost identical conditions found when police and child welfare workers visited the Duncans's home at 1413 William St. in August 2003.

As a condition of probation for Terri Duncan, Syler said she must keep her house "neat and orderly in a healthy condition" and keep in touch with social services agencies.

"Make sure this does not happen again," Syler warned her. "You not only risk losing your freedom, you risk losing your children as well."

The Duncans declined to comment after the court appearance.

Assistant prosecutor Hunter said she agreed to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor because of Duncan's lack of criminal history and she agreed to take parenting classes and undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Another factor was that the children were not injured as a result of the mess and Duncan is working with the state Children's Division to keep her home safe and healthy, Hunter said.

Police discovered the filthy conditions when they responded to Terri Duncan's call about a disturbance at her home. Her eldest son was fighting with Anderson because Anderson had allegedly been molesting a young girl in the home.

Anderson is charged with three counts of statutory sodomy.

Under questioning from police, according to a sworn statment filed by Cape Girardeau officer Paul Zajicek, Anderson admitted having sexual contact more than 10 times with the girl.

A jury trial for Anderson is scheduled for next Wednesday.

In the other case, Cedric Moore was ordered by Associate Circuit Judge Scott Thomsen to appear for a preliminary hearing Dec. 27.

Moore, who lived at 215 Pearl St. with Karen Clark and their six children, faces a single count of felony child endangerment. When social service workers and police visited Moore and Clark's home in early September, they found it filled with enormous amounts of trash and broken furniture. There was an overflowing bucket used as a toilet, holes in the floors and mice droppings near a bare mattress.

After the family moved from the home, a pile of garbage and other debris more than 5 feet tall and 10 feet long was removed from the dwelling. The house has since been condemned by the city inspection services.

Clark also faces a single count of felony child endangerment. She was in court Tuesday as well. She was arraignedfor a ticket she received for driving without a license.

She will appear before Judge Benjamin Lewis Monday for the endagerment charge.

Neither Moore nor Clark would comment after Tuesday's court appearance.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611 ext. 126

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