Juveniles Have Preliminary Hearing

Wednesday, May 15, 2097

Hearings to determine whether two juveniles should be tried as adults for their alleged involvement in the April Baileyton murders have been scheduled for mid July. The hearings for fourteen year old Jason Blake Bryant and seventeen year old Karen Howell were scheduled during a court appearance for the two yesterday afternoon in Juvenile Court before Judge James Carter.

Amidst tight security, the two made their first appearances in a Greene County courtroom since being extradited from Arizona on Monday, where they had been held since their capture along with the four adults charged with the murder of the Lillelid family in April. The court appointed attorney for Jason Bryant, Bob Jesse, waived his client's right to a detention hearing today, in light of the appeal of Bryant's extradition from Arizona. During testimony during the detention hearing for Karen Howell, John Huffine, the lead detective on the case, testified of several matters the state contends links Howell to the killings. Among them, the discovery of two year old Peter Lillelid's social security card in Howell's billfold after her arrest in Arizona. Huffine also testified today that Cochise County Juvenile Detention Center officers reported Howell confessed to being present during the April 6th killings, although she denied killing anyone.

Howell was also linked to one of the adult suspects, Joseph Risner, through a custodial interference warrant filed by her mother in Kentucky, after she left with Risner in the 1984 Chevy Citation which was found at the murder scene. Huffine testified that TBI tests on the 9 millimeter and .25 caliber weapons believed used in the killings matched spent cartridges recovered at the murder scene. Huffine said under cross examination that fingerprint results on the guns were not yet available. Howell's court appointed attorney Carl Leonard, argued that no evidence placed her at the rest stop where the abductions are said to have taken place, nor was there evidence of her involvement in the circumstances at the murder scene.

Judge Carter, however, saying the state had met the burden of proof of a detention hearing, ordered Howell to remain at the East Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Johnson City pending further hearings. Bryant, who will also remain at the juvenile facility, is tentatively scheduled for a transfer hearing July 15th, with Howell scheduled for July 17th. The preliminary hearing for the four adults has also been scheduled for July 16th. All hearings, the judge noted, are very tentative, subject to motions which may be filed in the case. Those include an expected motion by the state for mental evaluations of the juveniles.