A 15-year-old will face murder and rape charges as an adult. That was the decision made today by Judge Sarah Seaton following a probable cause hearing in Sampson County District Court, where all juvenile matters are initially handled.
The teen, whose name won’t be officially released until all paperwork has been completed, will be bound over to Sampson Superior Court where he will face charges filed against him in the murder and rape of 11-year-old McKenzie Sessoms, who was found dead in her Hairr Drive home near Salemburg nearly a year ago, on Sept. 6, 2013.
Family members and court personnel were the only ones allowed in the courtroom for the hearing Wednesday, which lasted for well over four hours, with assorted law enforcement officers and Sampson Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Barr among those expected to testify.
As the case was being called, attorneys for both the state and defense met with Seaton at the judge’s bench. Minutes later, Seaton asked that everyone other than court personnel, law enforcement and family members of the defendant and the victim exit the courtroom.
Contacted Wednesday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Robbie Thigpen confirmed the ruling and said no trial date had been set at this time. He noted that District Attorney Ernie Lee would be in charge of the case.
Seaton ordered Jones placed under two separate $1 million bonds for the two felony charges. The teen will not be housed in the Sampson County Detention Center but will remain in a juvenile facility until he has bonded out or until the completion of the trial.
Because the young man technically remains a juvenile until all paperwork from Wednesday’s court proceedings has been completed, Thigpen could not provide his address or name. All that will become public record prior to the trial.
The body of McKenzie Sessoms was found on Sept. 6, 2013 lying on the couch where she had been sleeping each night while renovations were being made to her bedroom.
Sampson County Sheriff’s investigators have remained tight-lipped about the case from the beginning, noting the sensitivity surrounding the findings and their desire not to compromise what they’ve called the “integrity of the case.”
In early May, Sheriff Jimmy Thornton announced the arrest of the teen believed responsible for young Sessoms’ death, but again stopped short of providing many details of the case.
Dr. Barr did go on record in May with The Independent, noting that the youngster had most likely been smothered and that the autopsy showed evidence of sexual assault, a fact which bears out the rape charge leveled against the juvenile.
The juvenile was taken into custody on May 6 in Franklin County where he had moved to live with his mother. In September 2013, he reported resided in Salemburg with his father and grandfather, next door to the Sessoms’ residence.
He was in court Wednesday, thin, with little emotion showing on his face as officers escorted him into a waiting area until the case was tried.