CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — A 17-year-old Missouri teen has pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in the July 24 beating of a local lesbian resident.
Mercedes Ayers, 17, was charged with a class B felony charge of first-degree burglary for entering the home of Jeana Terry on July 24 with the intent of assaulting her. However, the second charge of third-degree assault, which is normally a misdemeanor, was upgraded because Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor Morley Swingle who said that the assault was a hate crime due to the victim’s sexual orientation.
On Monday, prosecutor Swingle dropped the burglary charge agains Ayers in exchange for her plea baragin in Cape Girardeau County Circuit Court. Ayers pleaded guilty to felony assault motivated by discrimination in the attack on Terry.
According to court documents, Terry, 41, told law enforcement officials that Ayers pulled her from the home and, along with Ayers’ two younger siblings and some of their friends, beat her while yelling anti-gay slurs.
Terry said she opened the door and Ayers grabbed her by the arm and pulled her onto the porch and attacked her. Terry attempted to escape and yelled to Lange to call 911. Ayers allegedly pursued, punching Terry as several other juveniles — including two of Ayers’ younger siblings — joined in.
Terry never hit back, court records show, instead attempting from the ground to block the repeated blows and stomps to her head and body. Ayers allegedly yelled racial slurs at Terry during the beating and made comments about Terry’s sexual orientation. Ms Terry suffered serious injuries and was hospitalized.
Terry said she is relieved by Ayers’ plea and says she hopes the teenager will be able to turn her life around and finish high school. Ayers is scheduled to be sentenced in November.