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Thursday, December 06, 2018

Pennington found competent
A Newport man has been found competent to stand trial in the July 2015 death of a two year-old girl. The ruling was rendered Tuesday by Judge Carter Moore in Cocke County (TN) Circuit Court. Bobby Scott Pennington,25, who had lived in Newport for only a few months prior to the death of Destinee Elaina Harris, is charged with First Degree Murder, First Degree Felony Murder, and Aggravated Child Abuse. The defendant told investigators that he went into the bedroom of the toddler to wake her at 11 am, on July 29, 2015, and discovered the child was struggling to breathe. Pennington at the time was described as the boyfriend of the child's mother, Samantha Harris, who was at work at the time of the incident. The defendant said he picked up the child and took her to the living room where she stopped breathing. The toddler was transported by ambulance to the Newport Medical Center where she was pronounced dead. Ms.Harris told investigators that she checked on the child at 6:30 am before she left for work and “she (the victim) was sleeping and appeared fine.” Fourth Judicial District Attorney General James Dunn said the autopsy showed that the toddler died of "blunt force trauma". Defense Attorney Jessica Sisk filed a request for a psychological evaluation of her client and then asked for the Tuesday competency hearing because of the conflicting findings in the two psychological evaluations. Both psychologists, Dr. Andrew Demick, PsyD with Cherokee Health Systems and Dr. James F. Murray, Ph.D., testified during the Tuesday hearing and were questioned by Sisk as well as Asst. District Attorney Mark Strange. They testified that the defendant's reasoning capability suggested impairment in the area of understanding legal issues. Judge Moore held that both psychologists were credible witnesses, and they both had similar findings. "Dr. Dimick states point-blank that he is competent to stand trial, but Dr. Murray says he is competent to stand trial if he is given additional time to prepare," ruled the court. The court denied a motion by Sisk that the bond for Pennington be reduced. She had pointed out that under the $500,000 bond, Pennington has remained in custody since his arrest. But Prosecutor Strange argued that the charges "are very, very serious and he has few ties to the community." The judge then held that the defendant has no ties to Newport since his sister moved back to Indiana, and so he should not be released on bond.

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