Libertyville girl will not be tried as adult
LIBERTYVILLE – The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office has decided not to try a 15-year-old female as an adult who is charged with child endangerment resulting in death.
The female, Nicole Williams, is being charged in relation to the death of an infant found at her home at 703 E. Maple in Libertyville on the morning of Oct. 11.
Jefferson County Assistant Attorney Pat McAvan said today he did not file a motion to try Williams as an adult. Instead, McAvan wants to try Williams as a “youthful offender.”
McAvan said mandatory minimum sentences do not apply to youthful offenders. The charge against the female, if committed by an adult, would be a Class B felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison. A youthful offender is able to take advantage of the services available to juveniles until they are 18. At that time, they may be given a sentence. Had the minor been charged as a juvenile, she would not have faced any sentence after age 18.
McAvan said he was unsure what sentence Williams would have received, if convicted, had she been tried as an adult. He said the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that a sentence of 50 years for a juvenile is cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. In another case, the court ruled 35 years is also unconstitutional.
The services available to juveniles and youthful offenders include educational instruction and mental health checks. McAvan said the superior services available to youthful offenders compared to adults is one reason he wants to try Williams as a youthful offender.
According to a court record filed by McAvan, Williams gave birth to a baby on either Oct. 10 or Oct. 11. She gave birth to the baby in her room at her home in Libertyville. Williams admitted she had the baby and that it was crying. She admitted she put the baby in a towel and tried to clean herself up.
The court record states Williams admitted the baby was coughing and moving around. It said she hid the baby by wrapping it in a towel and putting it in a basket with her clothes, and then putting clothes on top of the baby. Williams said in an interview she thought the baby would not survive or would have problems. The court record states Williams said she never went back to check on the baby.
On Oct. 28, the court held a detention hearing to determine if Williams should remain in detention or return to live with her parents. Thomas Walkup of juvenile court services testified Williams lived with her mother Brandy Williams-Lowe and her step-father Sean Lowe. He said Williams was able to hide her pregnancy from her parents for nine months.
Walkup said given Williams’s “history of deception regarding her pregnancy,” he was not confident he could properly supervise Williams if she were released to the custody of her parents. He recommended she remain in detention to protect her well-being and the well-being of others.
Sean Lowe testified he and the family could supervise Williams if she returned home. Williams testified she would like to return home. The court ruled Williams was to remain in detention and that Williams was to participate in a comprehensive mental health assessment.
Defense attorney R.E. Breckenridge of Ottumwa filed a motion to close from public view the court hearings for Williams. Breckenridge wrote that Williams’s case has already generated considerable media attention. The attorney wrote that Williams is barely 15 years old and has already been subjected to intense scrutiny. Breckenridge wrote that subjecting her to public hearings would impact her mental and physical well-being.
The defense attorney went on to write that the information in the case was fast-developing and incomplete and that some of it may turn out to be inaccurate, which would subject Williams to the scorn of the community before she has been found responsible for the acts in question.
The hearing to decide on Breckenridge’s motion will occur Dec. 11.