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17-year-old certified as adult, charged with hate crime against gay Cape Girardeau woman

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- The 17-year-old suspect in the July 24 beating of a Cape Girardeau woman will be prosecuted as an adult, a judge ruled Tuesday, and officials wasted no time filing charges that included "hate crime" language because the victim is gay.

In a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes, Judge Scott Lipke transferred the suspect, Mercedes M. Ayers, from the juvenile system to the adult courts. Ayers, already in ankle shackles, was then taken into custody and transferred to the Cape Girardeau County Jail.

Less than 90 minutes later, prosecutors filed felonious burglary and assault charges that had already been prepared. The assault charge, normally a misdemeanor, is elevated to a felony because prosecutors believe the sexual orientation of victim Jeana Terry was a factor.

Neither Terry nor her partner testified Tuesday, although both had been subpoenaed. The girl's lawyer, Jeff Dix, did not object to the juvenile office's motion to certify the suspect, who was 16 at the time of the attack but turned 17 on Friday. Terry did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment.

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