IM this article to a friend!

May 29, 2003

Boy, 16, denies killing woman

From: Akron Beacon Journal, OH - May 29, 2003

Deaf youngster enters plea in juvenile court

By Andale Gross
Beacon Journal staff writer

A teen-ager accused of raping and killing an Akron woman two years ago denied the charges Thursday in Summit County Juvenile Court.

Jerron Johnson, who is deaf, entered his plea -- the juvenile court equivalent of not guilty -- through an interpreter. He faces a probable cause hearing July 18 to determine if there is enough evidence to try him.

Prosecutors filed a motion Thursday to have 16-year-old Johnson moved to adult court.

He is charged with the Oct. 5, 2001, aggravated murder and rape of Jean Zienka, 45, in her Akers Avenue home.

Police said the case against Johnson is driven by strong physical evidence. Detectives acknowledge having difficulty communicating with him because of his hearing impairment.

Johnson has been in custody at the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center since March.

In addition to the rape and murder of Zienka, the teen is charged with three other crimes: the attempted murder and rape of a woman in November on Seventh Avenue; an attempted rape and abduction of a woman Oct. 15, 2001, on Johnston Street; and a peeping tom incident involving a 13-year-old girl in February on Winans Avenue.

Johnson could be automatically bound over to adult court for the Seventh Avenue incident because he was 16 at the time and it involved a murder attempt, Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Corley said.

Johnson's lawyer, Annette Powers, said the teen likely wouldn't be competent to stand trial and assist with his defense.

''Jerron functions probably at a level of a 5-year-old, as it has been explained to me,'' she said.

Juvenile Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio acknowledged Powers' concerns but said the hearing will be held as planned.

© 2003 Beacon Journal and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.