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An 18-year-old Lawrenceburg teen suspected of holding two teens at gunpoint in a home invasion has been released from jail with all charges dismissed following a complaint about his case’s improper transfer from juvenile to Circuit Court.
During an Anderson County Circuit Court hearing last Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Charles Hickman dismissed charges against Kendall Cunningham, 18, and ruled that Cunningham be consequently released from Shelby County Detention Center.
Cunningham, who turned 18 on June 20, was charged March 1 with first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery and theft by unlawful taking-firearm, according to court documents filed in Circuit Court.
According to documents from the Lawrenceburg police department, a 17-year-old Cunningham allegedly followed two other male suspects, Andrew Muns and Charles Peach, into a Citation Lane residence in late February as a fourth man, Ryan Ashburn, waited in a getaway car outside.
Cunningham’s name was not initially released by law enforcement due to his juvenile status.
Once inside Peach, Muns and Cunningham allegedly stole $30 in cash from one of the teen victims along with a .9 mm handgun and a .40 caliber rifle with a folding stock that belonged to owner of the residence, who was not home at the time of the home invasion.
Cunningham wore a bandana over his face, police said, and allegedly pointed the handgun at two teenagers inside the home and threatened them.
During the invasion, police said, Cunningham removed the gun’s magazine and showed the two teenage victims that the gun was not fake, and that it was loaded.
Cunningham’s legal defense, Brent Cox of Lexington, filed a motion Aug. 20 to dismiss the indictment against Cunningham and claimed Cunningham’s transfer order to Circuit Court was insufficient and invalid.
As Cunningham’s case was being transferred in March so he could be tried as an adult in Circuit Court, the Anderson County District Court needed to determine if Cunningham understood the consequences of the transfer.
The court failed to communicate with Cunningham regarding the case’s move to Circuit Court, Cox said in his motion to dismiss, with the only acknowledgement of the waiver involving Cunningham’s former attorney Kristin Gonzalez stating Cunningham stipulated to transfer to the Circuit Court.
The record is silent, Cox wrote, on any considerations of whether the court directly engaged with Cunningham about the consequences of this action.
“The District Court did not engage Kendall through a colloquy or in any other meaningful way to determine if his ‘waiver’ of the preliminary or transfer hearing was made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently,” Cox said in his motion to dismiss Cunningham’s indictment filed Aug. 20.
The charges against Cunningham were dropped, and the case will be remanded back to district court for an additional transfer hearing, Commonwealth Attorney Laura Donnell said Monday.
The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office is currently working with the Anderson County Attorney’s Office to make sure the case is eventually transferred to Circuit Court so that Cunningham can be tried as an adult in front of a jury, Donnell said.
“We have every intention in seeing that case transferred to circuit court and that he be tried as an adult,” Donnell said.
Donnell said she was not at liberty to say if an electronic arrest warrant had been filed for Cunningham because Cunningham, 17 years old at the time of his arrest, was initially charged as a juvenile.
Juvenile court proceedings are confidential, Donnell said, but a source has confirmed to The Anderson News that a pick-up order has been filed for Cunningham’s arrest on his original charges.
Prior to his release, Cunningham was being held in the Shelby County Detention Center.