Cram goes to trial next year for 2011 murder

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Family storms from courtroom when suspect doesn’t show

By Ben Carlson

A trial date was set Tuesday morning for the man charged with murdering a Clay Burgin Road woman nearly two years ago, but it won’t be until next year.
Terrance Cram, who remains incarcerated in the Shelby County Detention Center since he was apprehended in June of 2011 on charges that he murdered Tena McNeely in January of that year, will now stand trial May 12, 2014. A final pretrial conference is scheduled for April 8, 2014.
Cram was originally supposed to go to trial a year ago this month, but a foul-up in the public defender’s office left him without representation during much of that time.
That issue boiled over in July when Circuit Court Judge Charles Hickman scolded the state’s Department of Public Advocacy in open court, warning the agency to assign council for Cram and putting the office on notice that no further delays will be tolerated.
Cram did not appear in court Tuesday, much to the dismay of several of McNeely’s family members who stormed out of the courtroom after realizing Cram was not among the inmates escorted into the courtroom.
A short time later, Cram’s new public defender, Melanie Lowe of the agency’s LaGrange office, appeared on Cram’s behalf and agreed to the trial date.
Cram’s absence from the hearing was not discussed, but Lowe said afterward that he remains in the Shelby County Detention Center.
McNeely was found dead in her home on Clay Burgin Road after apparently being struck several times in the head with a blunt object, according to police reports at that time.
McNeely, a daughter of fallen Kentucky State Police Trooper James NcNeely who died in the line of duty in 1971, died of a brain injury from blunt impact, investigators said at the time, and may have lived from minutes to hours following her assault.
Cram, who rented a room from McNeely, was immediately considered a suspect but could not be found, triggering a nationwide search.
He was captured several weeks later in Arizona after leaving a trial of purchases made with McNeely’s debit card that wound through Tennessee, Georgia and into Florida.
During the July hearing, Cram told Hickman that he has wanted a speedy trial since he was first captured and that his health has suffered during the time of his incarceration.
“I’ve spent two years in that jail, my health is suffering and my teeth are falling out,” Cram said. “They stopped treating me since November of last year, unless I get sent to the emergency room.”
Hickman called the department’s inability to provide Cram with legal counsel an “utter failure.”
“His guaranteed right to counsel under the United States Constitution, and he also should be afforded competent council whether any of the assigned parties were unable to perform their duties, has been completely gutted by the DPA [Department of Public Advocacy],” Hickman said.
“It’s not the court’s fault. It’s not the Commonwealth’s fault. It is not Mr. Cram’s fault. This falls under the DPA.”