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Teenagers plead not guilty in case of dumpster baby

BY KAT RUSSELL krussell@paducahsun.com

The two teenagers accused of discarding a newborn baby last year in an apartment complex dumpster made their first court appearance as certified adults Thursday at an arraignment hearing in McCracken Circuit Court.

The baby's mother, Casside Cherry, 15, and Trevon Elmore, 17, face charges of attempted murder, first-degree criminal abuse and tampering with physical evidence. Both entered pleas of not guilty.

The baby was found in a dumpster behind Fernwood Apartments near Lone Oak and Berger roads on July 30 after a witness reported seeing a young black male - now identified as Elmore - discard something and leave the area.

In a written statement taken at the McCracken Sheriff's Department on July 31, Elmore said he waited until someone was nearby and tried to look conspicuous when he placed the baby in the dumpster because he wanted someone to find the child.

He also wrote the child was wrapped in a polka-dotted blanket and a blue sheet, then placed in a garbage bag. Elmore wrote he had poked holes in the bag to allow the child to breathe.

Once found, the infant was taken to a hospital and then released to social services, said McCracken Sheriff Jon Hayden.

In his statement, Elmore expressed remorse, writing, "I'm glad someone found the baby. I am ready to do the time I deserve â ¦ I should have told somebody. I know that I (was) wrong."

Later that evening, emergency dispatch received a call regarding a medical emergency from a residence near Berger Road and Goodman Drive, not far from the dumpster.

Upon arrival, emergency personnel found a 15-year-old girl who had given birth hours earlier.

Hayden confirmed the girl - now identified as Cherry - was the baby's mother.

The statements Cherry made at the sheriff's department were not available in the court's case file.

On Thursday, following the arraignment, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Leigh Ann Dycus said before the teens could be transferred to circuit court, a confidential hearing had to be held in juvenile court to determine if they could be certified as youthful offenders, meaning they could be tried as adults.

"Kentucky law allows juveniles to be certified as adults under certain circumstances," Dycus said. "We are very careful to make sure that in the juvenile system we proceed correctly â ¦ There are so many factors that come in to play before a juvenile is certified in order to preserve their rights."

The next step, Dycus said, is to review the case and meet with the teens' attorneys. At that meeting, Dycus said she would most likely make a plea agreement offer. If accepted, then the teens would plead out and be sentenced, she said. If not, a trial date will be set.

Dycus also said if the teens are convicted, that doesn't mean they will go straight to an adult prison.

"We cannot put juveniles in prison with adults," she said. "If they are convicted and sentenced to a term of years, juveniles â ¦ are committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice until they turn 18. If, when they turn 18, their sentence has not expired, been probated or paroled, they come back in front of the circuit judge and the circuit judge then decides if he wants to probate them, if he wants to transfer them to an adult prison to serve more time or if he wants to send them back to (Department of Juvenile Justice).

The teens are next scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference on Feb. 15.

Contact Kat Russell, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.

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