Teen charged with murder gets new defense team

The Mercer County teen accused of murdering another teen has a new attorney — his former counsel.

Trenton Easterling, 16, has been charged with first-degree murder and robbery. The charges relate to the death of Tristan Cole on April 12, 2016. Cole’s body was found in rural Mercer County the evening after he was killed.

Stacy Coontz, who formerly defended Easterling while working for the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, along with attorneys Ephraim Helton and Matthew Walter, will be taking over the case. Coontz now works for Helton, Walter and Associates.

A motion for the firm to take over as counsel for Easterling was filed in the Mercer County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office on March 13. Easterling was in court on March 14 for a status hearing.

Easterling was arrested on April 14 by Kentucky State Police. It was decided he would be tried as a youthful offender on May 9.

Most recently in the case, on Feb. 14, Judge Darren Peckler granted a motion filed by Coontz, while still at the department of public advocacy, to suppress statements made by Easterling to officers at the time he was interviewed. Peckler stated that Easterling “was not advised of his Miranda rights” at the time of the interview and “as such, any statements made during that interview shall be suppressed.”

Easterling is scheduled to reappear in Mercer County Circuit Court at 9 a.m. on April 11. He is currently lodged in the Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center, because he is a youthful offender, and has a $1 million bond.

Helton is the lead attorney on the case and said it is a bit early for any statements on behalf of the defense at this time. At the pretrial conference in April, Helton said, they will ask for a trial date to be set.

“We are ready to move forward,” he said.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.