No jail time for teen charged in shooting of Florida trooper
Girl sentenced to mental-health facility
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A teen who pleaded no contest to her role in the shooting of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper last year will be sent a mental treatment facility under a sentence handed down Tuesday.
According to News 6 partner Florida Today, after a day-long hearing, Judge James Earp sentenced Morgan McNeil as a juvenile to a high-security mental health treatment facility in a program of 18 to 30 months. She can remain under the control of the Department of Juvenile Justice for up to five years or until she turns 22 years old.
If she later violates the conditions of her treatment or probation, she could be re-sentenced as an adult.
The trooper wounded in the shooting had asked for a longer treatment and punishment for the 16-year-old girl involved in an incident last year in which he was shot and the girl's boyfriend killed when the officer returned fire.
"I'm surprised," Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Lt. Channing Taylor said following the sentencing this afternoon. "I am disappointed. I expected something a little more severe."
Investigators said McNeil and the boy she was dating, Zane Terryn, 15, took a gun from her relative's Palm Bay home and were planning to drive to Ohio to commit suicide. They ended up at a Cocoa gas station, where Terryn fired on Taylor during a confrontation.
"This is a very adult crime that deserves adult punishment," Taylor testified. "I think about this all the time. I was shot and I had to take a life. It does bother me."
Terryn's mother, Anna Maria Gonzalez Terryn, also asked for a harsher punishment than McNeil received.
"When you commit a crime you have to do the penalty," she said. "I don't feel that this is enough."
A conditional plea agreement for the shooting last June asked for juvenile sentencing to be considered and had been tentatively accepted. Defense attorney Greg Eisenmenger said the move was made to get McNeil, who had been charged as an adult, the mental health treatment she needs.
Shackled and handcuffed, McNeil sat as her mother, Lisa McNeil, answered questions in a barely audible voice about what she knew of her daughter's mental health. She knew there was some depression, but apparently didn't take her to follow-up treatment as recommended by a doctor.
"She didn't want to go and I was afraid I was upsetting her more," she said.
A psychologist, a mental health counselor and a representative from the Department of Juvenile Justice recommended that the girl be sent to a treatment facility where they believed she could be rehabilitated rather than be sent to adult prison where the treatment options are few.
"Morgan is a child with significant needs," Eisenmenger said. "She need help and the only realistic way she can get help is being sentenced as a juvenile."
In the end, Earp said he saw no logical reason not to impose the juvenile sanction.
"There's probably no good answer to this problem," he said. "She has a documented history of mental health issues."
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