Teen to be charged as adult meets criteria

Last week, Jenna Oakley, a 15-year-old accused of killing her stepmother Rhonda Oakley in the family’s home and stealing her car in September, was indicted by a Boyle County Grand Jury after it was determined she would be charged as an adult. 

Kentucky Revised Statutes 640.010 gives eight criteria for potentially charging a juvenile as an adult which were applied in the case of Oakley’s charges. 

The eight are:

1. The seriousness of the alleged offense;

2. Whether the offense was against persons or property, with greater weight being given to offenses against persons;

3. The maturity of the child as determined by his environment;

4. The child’s prior record; 

5. The best interest of the child and community; 

6. The prospects of adequate protection of the public; 

7. The likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation of the child by the use of procedures, services, and facilities currently available to the juvenile justice system; and

8. Evidence of a child’s participation in a gang.

Meeting any two of the eight could indicate that a minor over the age of 14, as stated in KRS 635.020, could be charged as an adult. 

Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms said he couldn’t go into great detail regarding the case, but that Oakley’s situation met the criteria.

“The seriousness of the alleged offense? Murder. You can’t get any more serious than murder,” Bottoms said. 

He said she also met No. 2, as the alleged crime was against another person; and No. 6, as she’s being charged with murder, which he said could be important to the protection of the public.

There’s no evidence that Oakley was in a gang, and any prior record she might have cannot be released, Bottoms said.

Bottoms also would not confirm what role Oakley’s boyfriend, the late Kenneth Nigh, played in the murder.

“I can say that he played a role in the murder. I can’t get into detail as to what role he did or did not have,” he said.

Nigh, who was with Oakley when the two were found in a parking lot in Tucumcari, New Mexico, driving the car belonging to her stepmother, was lodged in a detention center in Tucumcari, but died in the hospital after he attempted suicide.

Files in the Boyle County Clerk’s office state requests for her files were sent to Boyle and Garrard County schools, and Rush County and Batesville Community Schools in Indiana.

The Kentucky State Police, which was in charge of the investigation, issued search warrants to locate two iPhones, one belonging to Oakley and one belonging to her stepmother; and a Dell Chrome Tablet which had been issued by the Boyle County High School.

It was during the investigation that “it was discovered she had been communicating through electronic means with a 20-year-old male,” but that person was not identified as Nigh. The items were taken for processing by the Kentucky State Police Electronic Crimes.

Files in the Boyle County Clerk’s office also state a competency evaluation had been completed on the teen at the Lincoln Village Juvenile Facility, where she is being lodged. According to the file, Oakley is doing well at the facility, where she “has been following the rules and expectations.”

“She follows staff’s instructions, is doing very well in school, is cooperative with staff, respectful of staff and peers, and has not been involved in any critical incidents at our facility,” the file reads. It also states that Oakley has earned “Upper Level,” which is something only a few of the residents obtain, giving her additional privileges.

“Resident Oakley earned Upper Level based on her overall behavior, school effort, following rules, meeting expectations and setting a positive example of other residents to follow.”

Oakley has been appointed representation from the Department of Public Advocacy. Calls to the office were unreturned.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.