15-year-old girl transported to juvenile detention
LIBERTYVILLE – The 15-year-old female who was charged with child endangerment resulting in death is being held at the Lee County Juvenile Detention Center in Montrose.
The girl has been charged for an incident in which a deceased infant was found in a closet at 703 E. Maple Ave. in Libertyville on Oct. 11. Authorities believe the girl gave birth to the infant the day before.
Jefferson County Assistant Attorney Pat McAvan said one of the girl’s family members at the home notified authorities. The Jefferson County Law Center also had been notified of the situation by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which treated the girl. McAvan said there was no evidence the deceased infant was born prematurely.
Because of her age, the girl’s case will go to juvenile court. However, the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office can apply to have the case heard in adult court, where the penalties are more severe.
McAvan said the county attorney’s office has not decided whether it wants to try the girl as a juvenile or an adult. Had the girl been one year older, 16, her case would have automatically gone to adult court because of the severity of the charge.
If the girl is tried as an adult, she could face up to 50 years in prison. If she is tried as a juvenile and convicted, she would not be confined beyond her 18th birthday because that is when the jurisdiction of the juvenile court ends. At that point, the case is closed and the conviction does not appear on the defendant’s criminal record.
McAvan said a child between the ages of 12-15 can be tried as an adult on a charge of child endangerment resulting in death.
Although a juvenile tried as an adult and convicted of this offense could face 50 years in prison, McAvan said the Iowa Supreme Court has suggested that length of time is unconstitutional for a juvenile defendant.
“In Iowa, the courts have decided that de facto life without parole is unconstitutional,” he said. “It means that if a juvenile is sentenced to a significant portion of their life in prison before they are eligible for parole, that is unconstitutional. It’s not clear how long is too long for a juvenile to be sentenced, but the court has suggested that 50 years is too long.”