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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 24, 2017

Libertyville girl to be tried in juvenile court

Judge took into account her age, lack of criminal history
By ANDY HALLMAN | Feb 28, 2014

LIBERTYVILLE – A 15-year-old female charged with child endangerment resulting in death will be tried in juvenile court.

Nicole Williams, of Libertyville, was 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. Associate Juvenile Judge William Owens ruled Wednesday the case will remain in juvenile court and will not be tried as a youthful offender in adult court.

Jefferson County Assistant Attorney Pat McAvan filed a motion to try Williams as a youthful offender. Unlike a person tried as an adult, 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. Those tried in juvenile court, on the other hand, do not face additional sentencing after age 18.

The hearing to determine whether Williams would be tried as a youthful offender occurred Feb. 12 and was contested by the defense, who wished for Williams to be tried in juvenile court.

According to the “Findings of fact, conclusions of law and order” filed by Owens, Williams learned she was pregnant in June 2013 when she felt the baby move in her womb. She chose to conceal her pregnancy from friends and family, but in October 2013 she experienced pain in her lower back that became severe. On or about Oct. 10, Williams gave birth to a baby in the bathroom of her residence in Libertyville.

Owens’s report continues by saying that after Williams gave birth, she wrapped the baby in a towel and placed it in her closet. She experienced nausea and dizziness after the birth and fell asleep. After awaking, she experienced dizziness again and telephoned her grandmother to come to the home to assist her. After seeing blood on the floor, her grandmother took her to the doctor and later to a local emergency room. The baby was apparently discovered dead in Williams’s closet either later that day or the following day, the report said.

Juvenile court officer Tom Walkup testified at the hearing that Williams was initially placed in detention, then moved to a shelter, and finally allowed to return home in January. Upon her release, she was initially placed on a number of restrictions including house arrest and being subject to tracking services. He testified her restrictions had significantly loosened since her release. As of the date of the hearing, Williams had to abide by a curfew and could “go into the community so long as she is accompanied by a parent or guardian.”

Walkup recommended Williams be waived to adult court for prosecution as a juvenile offender. He testified his recommendation was grounded in the serious nature of the offense, her risk of re-offending and his concern that Williams might not remain motivated to participate in counseling.

On cross-examination, Walkup said it was the first time he had recommended youthful offender treatment for a client. He said Williams’ situation was unusual among his clients in that she has strong family support, is committed to her academic success, has no substance abuse issues and has no prior contacts with juvenile court authorities.

Also on cross-examination, Walkup said that, in making his recommendation to refer Williams to adult court as a youthful offender, he gave primary consideration to the level of the offense, rather than Williams’s prospects for rehabilitation prior to reaching majority age. He said he was worried Williams would commit further delinquent offenses, but acknowledged both evaluations of Williams expressed little concern she would be involved in criminal or delinquent conduct in the future.

In his report on the conclusions of the law, Owens wrote, “Nicole reported that because of past experiences with bullying by peers, she felt she had no one she could confide in. She also felt that although she trusted her family, she could not divulge her condition to them because she did not want to disappoint them. As a result of all of these feelings, Nicole engaged in no planning for the birth.”

Owens wrote that, when Williams was taken to the hospital, she initially denied knowledge of a baby being born. However, upon further questioning, and after being confronted with information the baby had been discovered, Williams admitted to having given birth and to placing the child in the closet where it was later found.

“To say these facts present as tragic a set of circumstances as can possibly be imagined is an understatement of epic proportion,” Owens wrote. “While there is no evidence in the record Nicole did anything affirmative to terminate the life of her baby, but rather caused the death as a result of neglect, the fact remains the life of an infant has been lost. It is an event that will weigh on Nicole and her family for the remainder of their lives.”

Owens wrote that he took into consideration Williams’s age, her lack of prior contacts with juvenile court authorities and her lack of substance abuse in making his decision to keep Williams in juvenile court rather than accept the prosecution’s motion to try her as an adult.

A trial setting conference to establish deadlines for discovery and for an adjudicatory hearing was set for 1 p.m. March 12.

In late 2013, Williams’s attorney, R.E. Breckenridge of Ottumwa, filed a motion to close from public view the count hearings for Williams. Owens ruled on Dec. 23 that he would open some aspects of the hearing to be public while closing other aspects.

Owens ruled the hearing dealing with Williams’s age and whether probable cause exists would be open to the public. He ruled the portion of the hearing dealing with whether there are reasonable prospects to rehabilitate Williams should be open only to those persons who have direct interest in the case or in the work of the court. Those persons include the lawyers, the juvenile court officer and Williams’s parents or guardians.

The hearing on the motion to close the proceedings from public view occurred Dec. 4. A psychotherapist who specializes in neuropsychology and forensic psychology, Derrick Grimmell, gave Williams a mental health assessment. According to court records, Grimmell testified at the hearing that Williams is a “perfectionist,” and that this manifests itself in her belief that if she shows any defect it will lead to social rejection and ostracism from others, including her peers.

The court record indicated, “Dr. Grimmell testified a public hearing would subject Nicole’s behavior and conduct in this matter to a wider audience who would gain information that could be used against Nicole in the future. Dr. Grimmell indicated that given Nicole’s psychological state, this would be ‘unusually harmful’ for her.”

Grimmell testified Williams had always “expected that people will reject her, despise her, [and] hold her in contempt if she’s anything less than perfect …” He testified that while a closed hearing will cause questions to linger, Williams might be able to respond when she is older and has had more time to process what occurred.”

On Jan. 8, the court ordered Williams to be released from juvenile detention. She was placed in the custody of her mother, Brandy Williams-Lowe. Williams participated in two psychological evaluations before being released.


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