A Wayne County jury convicted a local mother and her boyfriend of wanton murder in connection with the death of her 17-month-old son.
The jury deliberated for about five hours on Monday, February 18 before returning with the verdict against Kayla Lord and her boyfriend, Jared Futrell.
The two were charged with murder in connection with the July 2011 death of Lord’s son, Staten Stephenson. According to a complaint filed in the case, the baby arrived at Wayne County Hospital with “evidence of blunt force trauma and was unresponsive.” He was transferred to the University of Kentucky Medical Center where he died 10 days later.
The trial began on Monday, February 11 and the first day was spent selecting a jury panel. Jurors then heard testimony throughout the remainder of the week and for much of the day on Monday, February 18 before they began deliberations.
Lord was on the stand on Monday and testified to what occurred on the morning of July 16, 2011. She said that she and her boyfriend woke up and found Staten unresponsive.
Lord and Futrell said that Staten was choking and they tried to help him.
She testified that she and Futrell, and his father, rushed the toddler to the Wayne County Hospital.
Prosecutors maintained that the toddler died from blunt force trauma, after being abused. But attorneys for Lord and Futrell stated that the toddler choked on gum and efforts to save him eventually caused more harm.
Lord told the court that she made the decision to take Staten off life support at the University of Kentucky Hospital, then held him in her arms as he died.
The case went to the jury at about 3:30 p.m. Monday, February 18.
The jury had five options. They could have found the defendants not guilty or found them guilty of murder, complicity, wanton murder or second degree manslaughter.
The jury recommended a 25 year sentence for each of the defendants. Both Lord and Futrell were kept in custody following the reading of the verdict.
They will be formally sentenced on March 13 in Wayne Circuit Court.
Monticello Independent School District has officially been placed under state management, following action taken by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) during a special meeting in Frankfort on Wednesday, February 20.
The state management designation comes with a $1.1 million loan for the local school district, to cover expenses through June 30.
All members of the Monticello Independent Board of Education were present at the state board meeting, with the exception of Jerry Lair, who was absent due to illness.
During the meeting last week, KBE members heard a presentation from representatives with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) who provided background information about the financial situation at Monticello Independent and the need for the district to be placed under state management. Speaking on behalf of the KDE were: Associate Commissioner Hiren Desai; Kay Kennedy and Gail Binder, who were among KDE staff members who conducted a financial management audit of the local district; and Lisa Lange, with the KDE legal department.
Desai and his team provided an overview of the situation at Monticello Independent, noting that the state board initially placed the district under state assistance in early December. They added that shortly after state assisted designation it became increasingly clear that the financial situation of the district was more dire than they initially thought.
Desai stated that KDE officials knew that finance was a weak area for the local district, but they thought this was something they could work on and improve. He added that they first thought the deficit to be in the neighborhood of around $200,000, but it was later determined that the deficit was significantly higher, around $1.1 million.
He pointed out that placing the local district under state management would give the state the opportunity to advance the Monticello Independent School District the funding necessary to remain open through June 30. Desai noted that this move is unprecedented because the state board has never had to advance funding to a school district in this way.
State board members had the opportunity to ask questions following the presentation by KDE officials. After the Q and A period, representatives with Monticello Independent had the opportunity to give a presentation.
Representing the local school district were: Winter Huff, lead counsel for the Monticello Independent Board of Education; board member Nancy Duncan; Bill Boyd, finance officer for Monticello Independent; and Johnny Chaplin, Supervisor of Instruction at Monticello Independent.
Boyd provided state board members with an update on the Monticello Independent School District’s current financial position and projections for the draft budget. He stated that the local board has approved a revised certified salary schedule which will reduce salary expenditures by $600,000 per year. This was accomplished by reducing every certified salary to the state minimum.
He added that the board has also revised and updated staffing formulas for the site based council. Also, officials with the local school district are currently looking at district-wide positions to determine if there could be any savings in that area. Boyd also noted school officials are currently reviewing all of the assets owned by the district to determine if all are needed or if some could be sold to generate additional revenue.
He discussed the projection for the draft budget, noting that there is still an approximate $400,000-$500,000 deficit for the 2013-14 school year. Boyd pointed out that representatives with the local district are diligently trying to come up with a plan to keep the school open past June 30.
Johnny Chaplin gave a PowerPoint presentation to update the state board on academic progress at Monticello in the areas of curriculum, instruction and assessment.
Chaplin noted that Monticello Independent began a partnership in 2011-12 with Southeast Education Cooperative (Wilderness Trail). The co-op provided training and follow-up on various teaching strategies. That partnership with Southeast Education Cooperative continued into the current school year.
Monticello Independent also began a partnership in 2011-12 with EKU (Dr. Robert Thomas) in K-9 Math Readiness, according to Chaplin. Through this partnership, officials developed a system in grades K-12 to increase student math automaticity skills and a system in high school for college readiness. This work is ongoing in the 2012–13 school year.
Chaplin stated that Monticello began a partnership with EKU and the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development this school year. Through this effort, school officials implemented research-based reading strategies across grade levels and content areas and developed systematic ways to analyze student data.
Monticello High School also received additional help from the Kentucky Department of Education with the placement of an Educational Recovery Leader, an English Language Arts Recovery Specialist and a Math Recovery Specialist in 2012-13.
During his presentation, Chaplin highlighted technology-based initiatives and college and career readiness efforts that have been implemented at Monticello.
Chaplin also reviewed last year’s Unbridled Learning Assessment results.
In addition, he pointed out that Monticello Independent was ranked 11th out of 41 Priority Schools and that this year’s ASVAB had a 26.5 percent increase in students meeting the ASVAB benchmark.
A question and answer session followed the presentation made by those representing Monticello Independent, and state board members took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions they had regarding the current situation at Monticello Independent School District.
At the conclusion of the Q and A, the KBE took action regarding the local district’s “state managed” designation.
Based on evidence that had been presented, “in accordance with KRS 158.785 and 703 KAR 3:205, the commissioner determined a pattern of a significant lack of efficiency and effectiveness in the governance or administration of the Monticello Independent School District existed and continues to exist, and that state management is necessary to correct the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness primarily in the district’s governance, finance and personnel operations,” according to information released by the state last week.
Monticello Independent is required to provide the commissioner with monthly reports indicating the status of improvement activities in the district. The commissioner will report on the district’s efforts at Kentucky Board of Education meetings.