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Child abuse case against Simpson couple to go into mediation

Child abuse case against Simpson couple to go into mediation

FRANKLIN — A judge has directed the case against a Simpson County couple facing hundreds of criminal counts accusing them of endangering their children to go into mediation.

Johnathon Jenkins, 31, and Morgan Soper, 29, both of Franklin, appeared Monday in Simpson Circuit Court for a pretrial conference in their respective criminal cases.

Jenkins and Soper are each charged in an indictment with 179 counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.

Jenkins also faces 179 counts of endangering the welfare of a minor, two counts of second-degree criminal abuse and one count each of second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, first-degree strangulation and knowingly obstructing an investigation/report of child abuse/neglect.

Soper, meanwhile, has also been charged with 90 counts of endangering the welfare of a minor and a count of second-degree criminal abuse.

Most of the counts against the couple concern allegations that they regularly left their 4-year-old child locked at home alone in a bedroom with no access to food or drink over a period of several months while they were at their jobs.

On Monday, Simpson Circuit Judge Mark Thurmond scheduled the couple and the Simpson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to sit for a mediation on Sept. 17 with a neutral third party.

Felony criminal mediation in Kentucky is a closed-door, out-of-court session in which two or more sides in the case can gather and work with a mediator in an effort to resolve any issues in dispute in an open criminal case.

Retired judges serve as mediators, and retired circuit judge Phil Patton is expected to act as the mediator in this case.

Jenkins remains housed in Simpson County Detention Center under a $50,000 cash bond, while Soper was released from jail on June 10 on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

The terms of Soper’s bond prohibit her from accessing any social media platform and from having contact with any minor children at any time.

Soper is also not to have any contact with the alleged victims in the case or their foster family, court records show.

The Simpson County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into the couple last year.

According to court records and prior courtroom testimony, a delivery driver knocked on the front door of the couple’s Springfield Road home on Oct. 12, getting no answer there or at the back door.

“After knocking repeatedly on the back door, they observed a small child in a bedroom window next to the back door beating on it and crying,” Simpson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Debbie Steele said in a complaint warrant sworn on Oct. 23.

The driver then contacted law enforcement.

During a preliminary hearing held in November in Simpson District Court, Steele testified that deputies arrived at the home, forced their way inside and found a padlocked door leading into a room where the child was found.

At the time, the child was wearing only a pull-up, and urine and fecal matter were found on two walls in the room, Steele testified last year.

According to arrest citations, law enforcement determined that Jenkins and Soper kept the child locked in a bedroom while they left home for their respective jobs, a practice that reportedly started in June and persisted for three months until their arrests.

“After speaking to the parents, they advised they locked the 4-year-old in his room because he was kicked out of day care,” Steele said in a complaint warrant. “Both parents work in Tennessee and leave in the early morning hours and do not return until mid-afternoon.”

Jenkins is also accused in the indictment of assaulting his then 10-year-old daughter by striking her with a stick and continuing to hit her with it after it broke, and then in a separate incident pushing her down, causing her to hit a table and receive a black eye.

The strangulation count against Jenkins is based on an allegation that he shook another child and applied pressure to her throat in an Aug. 21 incident because “he thought she ate a cookie,” according to the indictment against him.

Read the complete article here.

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