The jury trial against a man accused of sexual abuse on a church bus was vacated Monday morning in Christian Circuit Court Judge John Atkins’ courtroom as the suspect has been ordered for a mental health assessment.

Tyler Frances, 30, appeared in Atkins’ court alongside his defense attorney Sands Chewning and the Christian County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Boling, who is prosecuting the case for what was originally meant to be Frances’ jury trial.

Boling began the hearing explaining to the judge that the prosecution and defense came to an agreement to have Frances’ trial vacated as both parties requested that he have a mental health assessment performed.

Boling explained that Frances intends to enter a guilty plea deal to his charges in the case, but the court would first need the mental health assessment before the commonwealth can accept the plea.

“There needs to be an assessment by Pennyroyal Mental Health before we can enter the plea,” Boling said.

“We agree that we want the KCPC evaluation first,” Chewning said to the judge.

Boling then requested the case be set for another hearing a little over a month out to allow the evaluation to be done and subsequently allow Frances to enter a plea.

Following Boling and Chewning’s explanation, Atkins agreed to vacate Frances’ trial and set the trial for a plea deal hearing on Sept. 8.

“I’ll show that the jury trial scheduled for today is vacated and it’s continued to September the 8th at 8:30 a.m. for pretrial conference, agreed order expected,” Atkins said to the court.

According to New Era archives, Frances is accused of inappropriately touching a 15-year-old female on a church bus in April 2019.

The girl’s parents told officers their daughter told them a man named Tyler ripped off her underwear and put his fingers into her vagina.

The incident reportedly happened on a church bus and members of the church identified the man as Frances.

Officers then went to his home, arrested him and read him his Miranda rights. After being read his rights, Frances allegedly admitted to officers that he had touched the victim’s buttocks and vagina while on the church bus.

In other court news, two suspects accused of firing shots into a home in May of 2019 entered plea deals in Atkins’ court Monday morning.

Trey Kern, 21, and Payton Leneave, 21, appeared in Atkins’ court with their respective defense attorneys to enter guilty pleas for their involvement in the shooting.

Kern was first to enter a plea Monday morning, entering a guilty plea to first-degree wanton endangerment.

The deal carries a sentence of two years in prison, however, Christian County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jerad Smith shared that the commonwealth recommends Kern be sentenced to two years of probation.

Prior to Kern officially entering the guilty plea, Kern shared that he plans to pursue a job with Crown Services, Inc. and would be living with his mother in Crofton.

Smith also shared that the commonwealth did not intend to require that Kern be released on probation with an ankle monitor, being that he had already spent a large amount of time in custody.

“Mr. Kern has served a substantial amount of time on these cases at this point,” Smith said. “It was our intent to let him go with the typical non-financial conditions.”

Atkins also confirmed to Kern that he would likely be released from prison by the end of the day Monday.

Leneave entered a similar plea for his involvement in the case, pleading guilty to complicity to first-degree wanton endangerment. His plea deal also recommended that he be sentenced to two years of probation with the same conditions as Kern.

Following both men entering their pleas, Atkins scheduled their final sentencing hearing for Sept. 8.

According to New Era archives, Kern and Leneave were accused of firing two shots at a residence with a female victim in the home in a drive-by fashion.

Leneave allegedly drove the vehicle while Kern allegedly fired two shots at the home from the passenger seat.

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