Defendant in alleged Cape hate crime released on lowered bond

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Mercedes Ayers

A Cape Girardeau teenager charged in the attack of a lesbian last month was released from custody Wednesday after a judge cut her bond in half. The girl's mother said earlier in the day she intends to have her back in school in the next day or so.

Associate Circuit Judge Gary Kamp reduced the bond of Mercedes Ayers, 17, to $5,000 on Wednesday, although he attached a litany of conditions that are intended to keep Ayers away from the victim and out of trouble as she navigates through the court system.

Her release had seemed uncertain Wednesday because Ayers' lawyer, public defender Jennifer Slone, had told prosecutors she was not sure Ayers' family would be able to come up with the 10 percent of the overall bail that is generally required by most bondsmen. Officials at the Cape Girardeau County Jail confirmed at 8 p.m. that Ayers had been released.

Nancy Harris, Ayers' mother, said earlier Wednesday she already had the $500 required and was attempting to reach bail bondsmen. Harris said she hoped to have her daughter freed so that she could resume classes at the Alternative Education Center as soon as possible.

"She's doing OK," Harris said before her daughter's release. "She's just ready for this to be over with so her name can be cleared and she can quit being slandered."

The conditions of the bond reduction stipulate that Ayers must live with her aunt, LaTanya Harris; submit to blood, breath or urine tests; abstain from alcohol or drug use; and refrain from contacting the victim in any way. Ayers must be home from school each day from 4 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. and is only permitted to leave to attend school and court proceedings. She also must stay more than 500 feet away from the victim's residence and place of employment.

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle had no problem with the judge's decision to reduce the bond, saying it is important to remember that Ayers legally maintains a presumption of innocence.

"I do think the right thing is for the bond to be lowered so she can be let out," Swingle said. "She's a high school senior, and she should be among other high school seniors instead of with adult prisoners who will give her a wholly different education. It's awful to be in jail, and I wouldn't object to her release unless I believed she is a danger to the victims, and I don't."

Ayers has a preliminary hearing set for Sept. 13 in Jackson, where it will be determined if there is sufficient evidence for Ayers to stand trial in the July 24 assault of Jeana Terry. Terry maintains that Ayers pulled her from her home and into the street with the intent to beat her up because she is gay. Terry says she was attacked by Ayers and at least two other juveniles, who beat, stomped and kicked her while making anti-gay remarks.

Harris said she believes her daughter and the others fought with Terry because Terry and her partner, Lisa Lange, jumped Ayers for previously using such a slur. Both Terry and Lange have said they never laid a hand on Ayers. Ayers, who was certified as an adult, is charged with third-degree assault motivated by discrimination and first-degree burglary for allegedly pulling Terry from her home.

Terry said she was notified at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday that Ayers had been released and that she was very angry. She was perturbed that Ayers was not going to be electronically monitored.

Terry was also upset that Swingle didn't fight to keep Ayers in custody.

"Would he still feel that way if it was his daughter, his mother who was beaten that badly?" she said. "I felt every blow. I know how much of a threat she is.

"It's hard knowing she's just three miles from us."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

600 S. Park Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

100 Court St., Jackson, MO

216 N. Missouri St., Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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