A hearing to determine whether a juvenile to be known as D.H. will be waived into adult court was held Tuesday, April 16 in Ripley County Circuit Court.
D.H. is one of the teen's involved in a night spree of crime that saw one home-owner robbed at gun point, another homeowner robbed (money taken from a truck outside the home) and then the ultimate crime, the murder of Nancy Hershman of Milan, who was inside her home when the door was kicked in and three people burst inside. One of those was D.H.
Prosecutor Ric Hertel pointed out in court that the hearing would not be taking place if the crime had been just one day later. D.H. would have turned 16 where he would have automatically been charged as an adult. The murder occurred on December 30, 2012, just one day before D.H.'s 16th birthday. He faces charges of Murder, Burglary, and Conspiracy to Commit Burglary.
Those in the courtroom, which included a large entourage of Hershman's family, friends, and pastor, would hear testimony from Det. Tracy Rohlfing of the Indiana State Police and also from the mother of D.H.
Det. Rohlfing testified that when he talked with D.H., he was indeed cooperative, was coherent and was very interactive. The detective continued by saying that D.H. told him he knew Ryan Jackson, whose residence in Cross Plains had been broken into on the night of December 29, 2012.
D.H. had told the detective that he was a passenger in the car of Allison Moore, of Cincinnati, who has already been charged with murder in the case. He said she drove him and three of his friends to Cross Plains and then to Milan. The detective established that without D.H., the others did not know anyone or wouldn't have had any reason to even come to Ripley County. D.H. was friends with Jackson, who he said they intended to rob. He said he didn't know anything about the .40 caliber gun that was in the car until he got to Jackson's house.
The detective continued by saying that D.H. told him that he and Sean Nichols, a friend who has already been waived into adult court in the matter, went inside the Jackson home after kicking in the front door. Then they kicked in the bedroom door, where Jackson and his girlfriend were. He said they got marijuana and money.
After leaving the Cross Plains area, D.H. told Det. Rohlfing that the group then proceeded to the Milan area where they cased out one place, describing it as "sketchy" or "hot" and decided to move on. They went to the home of Mary Pickering and stole money out of a truck at her residence.
Then D.H. said the carload stopped at the Nancy Hershman residence. He said he knew the previous owner who lived there, Tracy Mullikin. He said he was friends with her daughter.
What D.H. didn't know was that Mullikin no longer lived at the home. The detective said that D.H. told him he kicked in the door and the three went inside. Allison was carrying the gun and was the one who fatally shot Hershman. The detective said while Hershman was being shot, the two boys were in the process of taking a large screen television. After the gunshot rang out, the three fled the residence, but not before D.H. said he prayed for the lady and ran. They did not accomplish the goal of getting the television.
D.H.'s mother was put on the stand and said her son had problems since he was in kindergarten. She said her son couldn't live with her because she was living with her mother and step-father who have a condo where only so many people are allowed.
She testified that D.H. had lived between his father, her sister, his siblings and herself for the past few years. She said he had had a troubled past being expelled from every school he had attended. She also said when he was on the right medication, he was perfectly fine. If not, he was a troubled boy who did irrational things.
The mother said she tried to get him help, but none was forthcoming in Ohio, where she lived. She said a child can decline to get help in that state and there's nothing the parent can do. She further stated that she sent him to live with his father in Ripley County where he could get on probation. He did. D.H. was placed on probation for being incorrigible in March of 2012. However, he was cut loose early from the probation program in Ripley County in December before the crime spree he now stands accused of being a part of.
The mother went on to say that without his medication, it "throws him (D.H.) out of whack". She said he was diagnosed as being bipolar, depression disorder and emotion disorder, along with ADHD.
Prosecutor Ric Hertel cited 71 conduct violations since February 1, 2013, when he was placed at CedarBridge Youth Center. Harris said she was only aware of six. When the prosecutor asked if she was involved in her son's life, she said she was, but there were gaps like when she didn't even know he had moved to Ohio with her sister who was on probation, and her husband on parole.
She said she never felt her son was a potential danger and still doesn't. She said she didn't know it would go to this extent. When questioned about his teachers, she said she didn't know their names. She told the court she has five children, and couldn't remember everything.
However, another side of D.H. was described by his father in paperwork he filed with the court. While he didn't testify on Tuesday, he was present. In the paperwork he noted that his son would make death threats to the family, scream, punch his father in the face, and was violent with his step-brother to name a few.
A teacher at South Ripley schools wrote that there was a "constant concern for others in the building," when D.H. was there. He would throw and damage desks, clear rows of books off the shelves and use excessive vulgar language. This same teacher wrote, "He will be a menace to society if we don't do something fast."
The mother said she took as much control of him as she could. She said at one time she was homeless herself. She maintained her son was not a menace to society. "No, I don't think my son is dangerous," she responded to the prosecutor's question of if she thought he was dangerous.
She said she was aware that her son had been diagnosed with a substance abuse problem. She said she knew he smoked pot. She also told the court her son had never been in a "regular" classroom in school due to his illnesses. "He needed to be taught different," she said.
Under cross examination defense attorney John Watson questioned Det. Rohlfing about when the Miranda rights were given to the mother and son in Ohio. Watson said there was some discrepancy about who had the gun at the Cross Plains residence. He said there were discrepancies in the stories that were told.
When the prosecutor moved to have evidence admitted concerning the paper trail that would show D.H.'s disregard for instruction at various places, Watson objected, but was overruled by Judge Carl Taul who said the court believes the documents to be relevant.
Both the prosecutor and defense agreed that D.H. had been bounced from house to house and that he possibly had some mental illness issues.
The hearing was continued until May 24 at 1 p.m. pending a psychiatric evaluation for the defendant.