15-year-old accused of murdering step mom makes first appearance in Boyle court

Published 8:10 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Those in the Boyle County Circuit Courtroom on Tuesday all turned sharply to see the 15-year-old accused of murdering her step mother after her name was announced to Judge Darren Peckler.

Jenna Oakley held tightly to an attorney with the public defender’s office as she entered the circuit courtroom for the first time publicly Tuesday, to be arraigned in the death of Rhonda Oakley, 52, who was found murdered in September in the family’s home north of Junction City.

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Jenna Oakley entered a not guilty plea, the action typically taken by defendants on their first appearance after their indictment. The plea was entered through her attorney, Landon J. Tingle with the Department of Public Advocacy. Oakley said nothing else to the judge. 

She is accused of “causing the death of Rhonda Oakley or that another person did so by acting in complicity with the defendant to commit this crime.”

Following the death of Rhonda Oakley on Sept. 1, officials listed the teen as a missing person, believed to be in the company of her boyfriend, Kenneth Nigh, 20, of Arlington, Indiana. The two were found in a parking lot of a Motel 6 in Tucumcari, New Mexico on Sept. 3. 

Nigh could have been considered a co-defendant on the case, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms. But he passed away in a Texas hospital where he had been taken after he was found with self-inflicted wounds while lodged in the Quay County Detention Center near Tucumcari, New Mexico. Tingle, Jenna Oakley’s attorney, made that fact known to Judge Darren Peckler in court.

Little else is known publicly about the case surrounding Oakley. She entered the court system as a juvenile, before being indicted on Oct. 20 in the Boyle County Circuit Court. At that time, it was ruled she would be tried as an adult. 

Oakley remains lodged in a juvenile detention facility.

Oakley will be in court again at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 3, 2017, for a status hearing.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.