Did St. Louis judicial system fail these victims? The growing concern with GPS ankle monitors

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Two defendants in two separate cases, both out of jail and wearing GPS ankle monitors, are accused of horrific crimes, leaving victim advocates questioning if there’s an opportunity for change.

Joshua Harris was murdered in his driveway last week in Clayton. Janae Edmondson lost both her legs when a car ran her over earlier this year. The two defendants at the center of these cases were both on ankle monitors at the time.

“There are folks out there committing these very violent crimes,” ALIVE Executive Director Sarah Gramanzini said. “[They’re] not being monitored.”

Gramanzini is not the only one with concerns.

Crime Victim Center Director of Youth Services and Outreach Kat Cocivera said it leads to victims doubting the system.

“When’s there’s faulty monitoring or lack of monitoring, that creates an even bigger issue,” Cocivera said.

Cocivera is just learning about the court records concerning Trenell Johnson. Johnson, 18, is the defendant in last week’s killing of Joshua Harris, 41.

Johnson posted a $3,000 bond in May after authorities say he took St. Louis County police on a high-speed pursuit and pointed a gun at detectives.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said Friday his office objected to the bond amount, but bail was set at an appropriate amount given the felonies filed.

“Charges are going to be based on the facts of a particular case and the degree of the case,” Bell said.

St. Louis County Judge Jeffrey Medler ordered Johnson to wear a GPS ankle monitor.

The case had a new judge assigned at the time a pre-trial assessment entry was made on the court’s docket, which is dated Sept. 7. The FOX Files has learned that the letter notified Circuit Court Judge Bruce Hilton, that the battery in the ankle monitor had died.

“From a victim’s perspective, it doesn’t send a comforting message,” Cocivera said.

Bell said his office was not copied on the letter and was not given the information.

There’s a big question as to who was notified. The FOX Files was told everyone involved in the case would have likely been notified via email that the pre-trial assessment was filed in the case; however, it would’ve been filed like any other court entry with no significant level of importance or an alert.

No one revoked Johnson’s bond and the letter to Hilton is not available for the public to see.

St. Louis University Law Professor Anders Walker said the letter is communication between the judge and attorneys.

“The suspect is technically innocent until proven guilty. There may be no reason to release it,” Walker said.

Walker said the company responsible for monitoring the GPS ankle monitor would have sent a letter to the clerk of the court. Walker said the judge could have revoked the bond.

Gramanzini, an advocate for victims’ rights, has expressed concerns over the information about dead batteries not being shared with the public.

“Having those things being public record and looked at really harder would be helpful to the people we support,” Gramanzini said.

The Clayton homicide is not the first major case involving a suspect on a GPS ankle monitor.

Earlier this year, Janae Edmundson, a Tennessee volleyball player, got hit by a car allegedly driven by Daniel Riley, who was out on bond but had multiple GPS ankle monitor violations leading up to the crash.

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Edmundson lost both her legs.

“We’re going to have to go back to the days where repeat offenders, violent offenders, are taken off the streets,” Governor Mike Parson said in February.

Walker said state lawmakers may decide to discuss the issue in the upcoming legislative session.

“The legislature might step in and say, ‘We’re going to regulate this,’ so if there is a dead battery, you better report it, and you better put that person back in jail,” Walker said.

Cocivera said it’s something lawmakers should take up.

“Whenever issues come up and something isn’t working as it’s designed to work, then I think there’s always room to go back and make it more perfected—to make it safer,” Cocivera said.

The Office of State Courts Administrator did not respond to FOX 2’s request for comment.

Governor Parson’s office did not respond to FOX 2’s request for comment.


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