The First United Methodist Church Daycare child abuse case was scheduled in Circuit Judge John Atkins’ courtroom Wednesday morning to have its previous trial date expunged and rescheduled, but due to a motion the commonwealth intends to file, the trial has not yet been rescheduled.
Allison Simpson, 25, Rev. Paige Williams, 62, Abby Leach, 33, and Nina Morgan, 53, are all accused of being involved in a criminal abuse case that allegedly occurred at the FUMC Daycare.
Atkins explained to the court that the previous trial date of the week of April 26 — 30 can not happen due to the current COVID-19 restrictions. Under those restrictions, trials will not be conducted until after May 1.
Atkins continued to explain to the court that he had already decided on a date to reschedule the trial prior to the court meeting Wednesday morning.
“I would move this case from April to the first week of May, that way it would be compliant with the Chief Justice’s order and we could have the matter resolved, hopefully, by trial by jury without resulting in another lengthy postponement,” Atkins said to the court.
However, Ben Fletcher, who represents one of the women in the case, shared with the court that he would be appearing in Federal court on May 3, preventing him from being able to try the case on that date. He requested that the case be tried on a different week.
Christian County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Boling then requested that the case be set for trial in either July, August or September.
Boling also explained to the court that he intends to file a motion to consolidate all four cases for trial to be had at the same time.
“I planning on filing it, but once I saw that this trial date was going to have to be moved, I didn’t see the urgency to get it filed that way, but I intend to file that probably this week,” Boling said to the court.
Bill Deatherage, who is also a defense attorney in the case, stated to the court that he and the other defense attorneys would like to be heard in motion hearing regarding the motion to join the cases for a single trial.
Boling also advised the court that he had recently sent two of the four women new plea offers, but had not received a response from the defense.
Deatherage shared that he had not received the recent offer paperwork so he had not discussed it with his client. Fletcher shared that he did receive the offer paperwork, but needed to review it with his client.
With all of that in mind, Atkins chose to continue the case to another pretrial conference on April 8, on which date the court will likely schedule a new trial date for all four women in the case.
Atkins added that the one-week continuance should give the defense time to discuss the recent plea offers with their clients and give Boling time to file his motion to consolidate the cases for a single trial.
The four of them are facing child abuse-related charges that allegedly occurred at the church’s day care between Dec. 1, 2018, and Jan. 28, 2019.
Simpson is charged with 29 counts of first-degree criminal abuse of a child under the age of 12 and one count of second-degree criminal abuse of a child under the age of 12.
According to New Era archives and the indictment, 11 of the 30 charges are allegedly related to the same child while the other charges are for seven other children who were under Simpson’s care at the day care.
All counts allege that Simpson “abused (the children) who are under the age of 12, thereby placing (the children) in a situation that may cause serious physical injury, causing torture, cruel confinement or cruel punishment.”
Morgan is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal abuse of a child under the age of 12. Those charges allegedly occurred Jan. 5 and Jan. 16, 2019.
Williams, who was the senior pastor at the church, and Leach, who was the former day care director, are both charged with complicity to first-degree criminal abuse of a child under the age of 12.
According to court documents, Williams and Leach committed complicity to criminal abuse by “intentionally breaching their legal duty to protect (eight) minor children all less than 13 months old, by failing to prevent Allison Simpson from intentionally abusing these children.”
Also according to New Era archives, on Jan. 10, 2019, Simpson allegedly subjected two babies to cruel confinement and punishment while working at the day care. She is accused of putting a 10-month-old and an 8-month-old in “substantial danger of serious injury.”
In other court news, two out of four suspects accused of robbing a Burger King in Oak Grove entered guilty pleas for their involvement Wednesday afternoon before Judge Andrew Self.
Zsayonna Price and Solomon Burgess both appeared via Zoom to enter their pleas with their defense attorneys Brandi Jones and Munroe Graham.
The first to enter a guilty plea was Price, who was represented by Jones.
Price was originally charged with first-degree robbery, but under her plea offer, her charge was amended down to conspiracy to second-degree robbery, which carries a recommended sentence of 12 months in prison.
However, also as part of her deal, the commonwealth was neutral on probation and required her to testify against the other defendants in the case should they go to trial.
Jones waived a separate sentencing hearing on Price’s behalf and requested that the judge grant probation in the case as she is currently in school, working a job, accepted responsibility for part in the case as well as her willingness to aid the commonwealth in the case.
“This is her first time in trouble and I think she just fell into a bad situation with a couple people that she shouldn’t have been,” Jones said to the judge.
Christian County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Bolen, who is prosecuting these cases, shared with the judge that she agreed with Jones’ statements and would approve of Price being granted probation.
Self then sentenced Price to probation for one year.
Burgess was originally charged with first-degree robbery, but under his plea deal, his charge was amended down to second-degree robbery, which carried a recommended sentence of five years, however, the commonwealth is neutral on probation and required that he testify in court should the other cases go to trial.
Burgess’ defense attorney Munroe Graham did not waive a final sentencing hearing.
Self scheduled Burgess to receive his final sentence on May 19.
The other two defendants involved in the case, Rebecca McCoy and Isaia McCoy, also appeared via Zoom. Rebecca’s attorney David Rye requested that the case be continued to allow him to continue to work towards a resolution in the case.
“We haven’t reached a resolution just yet, however, I would ask that if we could maybe take the McCoys to the end of April, maybe the April 28th date, in light of the fact that the other defendants are entering pleas today,” Rye said to the judge. “That may help us get this resolved as well.”
Isaia’s attorney Jason Holland agreed with Rye and made the same request with Self.
Self ultimately agreed and continued the pair to April 28.
According to New Era archives, both McCoys were indicted on Aug. 7 for their involvement in the robbery of Burger King on Fort Campbell Boulevard in Oak Grove on June 14.
The indictment stated that Rebecca had conspired with Isaia, Price and Burgess to rob the fast food restaurant.
Archives continued to state that the three individuals allegedly entered Burger King armed with guns and wearing masks and demanded cash. No one was injured in the incident.
Isaia is charged with first-degree robbery while Rebecca is charged with conspiracy to first-degree robbery and tampering with physical evidence.