Mom dismayed by pregnant teen's actions
Crime » She is accused of paying a man to beat her to miscarry.
Updated: 05/27/2009 11:52:52 PM MDT
Vernal » The family of a pregnant 17-year-old charged with hiring a man to beat her so she would miscarry said Wednesday they are bewildered by her actions -- especially since she had been planning to give the baby up for adoption.
"That wasn't her," said the girl's mother, Joni Merrell of Naples. "Her mind wasn't there. Obviously something had happened, but I don't know what."
Prosecutors allege the girl paid 21-year-old Arron Harrison of Naples $150 to beat her up after her boyfriend threatened a breakup if she didn't get rid of the child.
Relatives said Wednesday the girl, who is seven months pregnant, was in touch with a California couple concerning an adoption, which appeared to be going smoothly. But the girl's boyfriend demanded shortly before the beating that she choose between him and the baby.
The boyfriend, relatives said, is significantly older and has been emotionally abusive.
"She's beautiful. She had so much to offer," a relative said. "But she gets caught up with the wrong people, with the wrong men."
Prosecutors on Tuesday charged the girl with first-degree felony criminal solicitation to commit murder in 8th District Juvenile Court. She appeared in court for the first time Wednesday.
Deputy Uintah County Attorney Mark Thomas said Wednesday her case will likely remain in juvenile court.
Relatives said the girl's immediate and extended family tried to support her throughout her pregnancy. Thomas said there aren't "sufficient facts" that allow prosecutors to pursue any charges now against her boyfriend.
Juvenile Court Judge Larry Steele on Wednesday ruled the girl must remain in a juvenile detention facility. The ruling upset Merrell, who said her daughter would be better off released to her family.
Merrell declined to speak about the specifics of the case against her daughter, but said the girl has had difficulties in her personal life over the past year. Despite problems, the girl remained a good student and had hopes for completing college and finding a career, Merrell said.
One of six children, the girl often helped Merrell, a single mother, tend to younger children in the family, she said. The girl volunteered in the community, often assisted her mother with housework and was attentive to the needs of her siblings, Merrell said.
The girl's uncle is Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell, who could not be reached for immediate comment Wednesday.
"She's a happy outgoing 17-year-old girl who has the world ahead of her," Merrell said. "Life is very important to her."
Merrell said she hasn't had a chance to speak with her daughter at length about what happened. She said she knows the girl and her unborn baby have been receiving medical care and both appear to be in good health.
Merrell said she doesn't know what made her daughter ask Harrison to beat her.
"I wish I knew what happened," she said.