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Charges dismissed in shelter molestation case

Two teens who faced two counts of aggravated child molestation are moving on with their lives this week after the charges were dismissed.

The two were accused of sexual acts with a boy, 7, while the three resided at Advocates for Children’s Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter in April 2014.

“Pretty much the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’s why it was dismissed,” a juvenile court representative said.

An adjudication hearing began Oct. 29 before Bartow County Juvenile Court Judge Jamie Averett after the matter was moved from superior court.

In September 2014, the two teenagers were indicted by a grand jury in superior court. Superior Court Judge Carey Nelson on Sept. 17, however, granted a motion by the prosecution to move the case to juvenile court.

“... The state believes there is extraordinary cause to transfer the case to Juvenile Court ...,” the motion reads.

Under the juvenile code section, superior court may transfer a case to juvenile court if it involves a child 13 to 17 years of age alleged to have committed voluntary manslaughter, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation or aggravated sexual battery. The transfer must consider criteria set forth in O.C.G.A. 15-11-562, including the age of the child, the seriousness of the offense, the offender’s history and whether the child would benefit from treatment or rehabilitation available through juvenile court.

Jennifer Ennerberg, defense attorney for one of the teens, said her client is a “good, bright kid” who looks forward to moving on.

“He’s been at a standstill since he was accused of this and arrested last April 2014. He can finally move forward and focus on just being a teenager again, i.e. joining the basketball team, now that the trial is over,” she said, adding that he is thriving in his grandparents’ care.

During testimony residents of the children’s shelter said Flowering Branch had no provisions in place regarding supervision in the restroom where the incident had allegedly occurred. Since that time, the shelter has instituted guidelines regarding the number of children allowed in the restroom at a time and supervision was put in place while residents showered.

Advocates for Children serves 17 counties in northwest Georgia, providing assistance to more than 3,000 children and families per year through its locations and programs.