Additional charges possible against Simpson couple in child abuse case

Published 4:04 pm Monday, April 8, 2024

By Justin Story, Bowling Green Daily News

FRANKLIN — The case against a couple already charged with hundreds of criminal counts between them based on allegations that they left their 4-year-old son locked alone in his bedroom all day while they went to work may become more complex.

Simpson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Corey Morgan said during a hearing Monday that additional criminal charges are possible in the cases against Johnathon Jenkins and Morgan Soper, both of Franklin.

They are both charged with 179 counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, while Jenkins, 31, is also charged with 179 counts of endangering the welfare of a minor, two counts of second-degree criminal abuse and one count each of second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, first-degree strangulation and knowingly obstructing an investigation/report of child abuse/neglect.

Soper, 29, is additionally charged with 90 counts of endangering the welfare of a minor and a count of second-degree criminal abuse.

They appeared Monday in Simpson Circuit Court for a pretrial conference, during which Morgan asked Simpson Circuit Judge Mark Thurmond to vacate an earlier order requiring both sides to take part in mediation in an effort to resolve the case.

Morgan said that another child has made disclosures alleging sexual abuse by Jenkins, and a follow-up interview has been scheduled at Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center.

“It changes the whole dynamic of this case,” Morgan said.

Asked by Thurmond about the probability of more criminal charges resulting from this interview, Morgan said it would be presented to a grand jury if he believed the evidence was strong enough to support an indictment.

Thurmond set a pretrial conference for June 3, which would be several weeks after the next scheduled session of the grand jury.

“I want the commonwealth to give this matter the highest priority it can because I don’t want (Jenkins and Soper) sitting in limbo for much longer than that,” Thurmond said.

Jenkins and Soper were arrested in October after an investigation begun by the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office.

The 4-year-old child named as the victim in the indictment is alleged to have not have access to anything to eat or drink and was found covered in feces when authorities were notified on Oct. 12.

It was on that date that deputies were called to the couple’s home on Springfield Road after a delivery driver reported getting no answer from the front door or the back door when attempting to deliver a package.

“After knocking repeatedly on the back door, they observed a small child in a bedroom window next to the back door beating on it and crying,” Simpson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Debbie Steele said in a complaint warrant sworn on Oct. 23.

Steele testified at a November preliminary hearing that deputies forced their way into the home and found a padlocked door leading into the room where the child was found, wearing only a pull-up, and with urine and feces found on two walls in the room.

According to arrest citations, law enforcement determined that Jenkins and Soper kept the child locked in a bedroom while they left home for their respective jobs, a practice that reportedly started in June and persisted for three months until their arrests.

“After speaking to the parents, they advised they locked the 4-year-old in his room because he was kicked out of daycare,” Steele said in a complaint warrant. “Both parents work in Tennessee and leave in the early morning hours and do not return until mid-afternoon.”

Charges of second-degree assault and fourth-degree assault returned against Jenkins concern allegations that he struck his 10-year-old daughter with a stick and continued hitting her with it after it broke and that in a separate alleged incident he pushed her down, causing her to hit a table and receive a black eye.

The strangulation count against Jenkins is based on allegations that he applied pressure to the throat of another child and then shook her “because he thought she ate a cookie” in an Aug. 21 incident, according to Jenkins’ indictment.

Both Jenkins and Soper remain in Simpson County Detention Center under $50,000 cash bonds.