Judge to decide whether assault suspect to be tried as adult
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Jeana Terry may be back at work but the effects of the brutal beating she took last month have far from subsided.
The 41-year-old Cape Girardeau resident still has trouble eating and sleeping. She suffers at times from vertigo, nausea and the lingering pain of a still-swollen face. In addition to the physical side-effects, Terry remains easily rattled, jumping at slight noises and random creaks -- not to mention the chronic fear of another attack.
Still, Terry says she intends to be in the Cape Girardeau courtroom today to face one of her alleged attackers in hopes of persuading a judge that the 17-year-old girl should be certified as an adult.
"Honestly, I wish all of them should be tried as an adult for what they did," Terry said. " ... For them to get just a slap on the wrist would not be right. They knew exactly what they were doing. They planned it."
The oldest of the three juvenile siblings, who turned 17 since the July 24 incident, is the focus of such a hearing at 8:30 a.m. in front of Judge Scott Lipke at the Common Pleas Courthouse. The juvenile office of Missouri's 32nd Judicial Circuit filed a motion to ask the judge to consider transferring the girl to the court of general jurisdiction for prosecution.
Authorities and witnesses say the girl and her two younger siblings, ages 11 and 13, attacked Terry last month outside her south-side Cape Girardeau home because she is gay. After weeks of subjecting Terry to anti-gay slurs, the oldest girl allegedly rounded up her siblings and friends and showed up on their Park Avenue porch planning to attack. While Terry and her partner, Lisa Lange, say Terry was lured outside, wrestled to the ground and beaten, the siblings' mother -- who could not be reached for comment -- disputes that version of events, saying Terry was the aggressor.
"If Lisa hadn't have pulled them off of me, I would be dead," Terry said.
Judge Lipke did not return phone calls Monday, but Missouri statutes outline criteria a judge may consider when weighing whether to certify a juvenile as an adult. Those factors include the seriousness of the offense, community safety, whether the offense involved "viciousness, force and violence," the child's history and the sophistication and maturity of the child. Charges in transfer cases also must be felonies, according to Missouri law.
Chief juvenile officer Randy Rhodes said his office consulted with the prosecutor's office before filing the motion, which he stopped short of calling a recommendation. He said such certification cases are rare, though he noted several crimes being committed by younger juveniles this summer. The brutality of the crime, in this instance, was also unusual for someone younger than 17, he said.
"I'd say this degree of injury is one we don't see except once every couple of years," Rhodes said.
Unlike juvenile court, charges in adult jurisdiction are affixed to one's permanent record and come with the possibility of time in prison, instead of a Division of Youth Services facility. Terry and her partner also would like to see hate crime charges attached to those charged in Terry's attack. Hate crimes carry even stiffer penalties.
Terry and Lange both suggested the siblings are dangerous, noting that the 11-year-old boy last week was arrested as a suspect in an armed robbery. The 17 year old and the 11 year old are in custody at the juvenile detention center in Charleston, Mo. The middle child, a 13-year-old girl, has been released on probation, Rhodes said, though he stressed she is being monitored electronically.
Rhodes said that charging the boy as an adult is "still on the table," although his office is awaiting the completion of a police investigation before deciding.
As for Terry, she said she's not simply hoping that the juveniles are tried as adults as a form of payback.
"I don't want them to take someone's life," she said. "I feel bad enough thinking how close they came to taking mine. One had a gun just a few weeks after what happened to me. It wouldn't have been hard for him to pull that trigger and kill someone."
44 N. Lorimier St., Cape Girardeau, MO