(from The Johnson City Press)
A 17-year-old boy accused of killing his mother last week intentionally strangled her to death and sexually abused her corpse before dumping her body in a trash can, according to a juvenile court document released Monday.
Johnson City Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Green ordered Codey Wayne Miller, 17, held at the Upper East Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center pending a June 5 status hearing, when she will hear motions in the case, including prosecutors’ request to transfer the teenager to adult Criminal Court for trial.
Miller is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and abuse of a corpse in the death of his mother, Sherry R. Cooper, 36, at her Lake Terrace housing development apartment on Thursday.
Assistant Public Defender Ivan Lilly, appointed to represent Miller, waived the teen’s detention hearing after telling Green that details from the homicide had not been released to news media or Miller’s family.
State law allows juvenile judges to grant media access to juvenile hearings on some cases, including murder, and Green granted a request from the Press. She also released documents that are public record in the case due to the charges involved, which allowed Miller’s name to become public record. Most juvenile records are sealed by state law.
Christopher A. Johnson, 36, 1355 Breedlove Ave., Memphis, is also charged along with Miller. He’s being held on charges of felony murder and abuse of a corpse. Washington County Sessions Judge Robert Lincoln arraigned Johnson by video Monday morning and appointed attorney Jim Lonon to represent him.
If convicted as an adult, Miller faces life in prison as would Johnson. If his case remains in juvenile court and his case is handled there, Miller could only be held in custody until he is 19 years old.
Johnson is accused of watching Miller kill Cooper sometime on May 7. According to a court affidavit, Johnson did not intervene in the killing or contact authorities after it happened.
Police also wrote in the court document that Johnson retrieved a trash can from outside the residence and “instructed the juvenile to place the victim’s body inside the trash can.”
One or both of them put the can back outside, according to police, but Cooper’s body was not discovered until around 1:30 a.m. May 9.
When police responded to 2472 Mint Hill Road about 1:30 a.m. Saturday on a death investigation, Tony Hyder was sitting over top of Cooper’s body in the side yard of the apartment building crying, according to the police report. Hyder, 58, 446 S. Broadway St., was apparently Cooper’s boyfriend.
Investigators remained silent Monday about details of the killing, including what prompted them to charge Miller and Johnson with felony murder. Felony murder requires that the killing occurred during the commission of one of a list of specific crimes that include acts of terrorism, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, aircraft piracy or discharging a bomb.
“We’re not releasing that until we get the autopsy back,” said Johnson City Police Lt. Steve Sherfey. He did confirm that Cooper suffered no trauma, no knife wounds and no gunshot wounds.
“The autopsy has not been done. They should be doing that (Tuesday),” he said. An investigator in the case will likely be present for that procedure, Sherfey said.
District Attorney General Tony Clark said earlier in the day that he planned to petition Johnson City Juvenile Court to transfer the boy to adult court for trial, and Assistant District Attorney General Kelly McCoy told Green the state will file that motion.
Johnson remains jailed on a $150,000 bond.
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