All four women accused in the First United Methodist Church child abuse cases were scheduled to appear in Christian Circuit Court Judge John Atkins’ court Wednesday morning to continue a previous hearing to determine how the commonwealth intended to move forward in the case.
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.
Christian County Commonwealth’s Attorney explained at the previous court appearance that he intended to represent any of the any of the cases that won’t take the prosecution’s plea offer to the Grand Jury for a superseding indictment to determine whether the jury believes its appropriate to indict on one count per victim or one count for each incident.
Boling added on that day that it may only be Leech and Williams that will be presented to the Grand Jury as the other two defendants are continuing to negotiate with the commonwealth.
Wednesday morning Leach and Williams were both arraigned on their new superseding indictments.
Previously, the pair were charged with a single count of complicity to first-degree criminal abuse of a child under the age of 12.
Under the new indictments, both are now charged with eight counts of complicity to first-degree criminal abuse of a child under the age of 12.
However, Bill Deatherage, who is representing Williams, and Ben Fletcher, who is representing Leach, both shared that neither of them had yet received the new indictment and because of that intended to wait to receive those before modifying or withdrawing several motions the defense has made. What those motions were, were not shared in court Wednesday.
Atkins, however, did choose to approve a motion to postpone the case’s trial date.
“This is complicated enough already and now with these new developments, I believe it would be prejudicial to expect anybody to go to trial on a superseding indictment on less than a week’s notice,” Atkins said.
Atkins continued to share that he would give counsel a month to discuss amongst each other and with their clients regarding how to move forward in the case. He also asked Boling if the other two defendants, Simpson and Morgan, who did not receive new superseding indictments, would be entering pleas.
Boling said they were not entering pleas just yet as they had to meet again to review the most recent offers from the commonwealth with their attorneys. Boling did add, “Within a month we should know exactly who will enter a guilty plea and who should be going to trial.”
Atkins then scheduled another pretrial conference for May 26.
“That’s the drop dead date for these cases — they’ve been lingering around for all this time and it’s time to fish or cut bait,” Atkins said. “If they’re not resolved on May the 26th, they’re going to go to trial without any further negotiations, as far as I’m concerned.”
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 daycare.
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 eight counts of 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.”