SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — An 18-year-old was charged with first-degree murder while police say he was wearing an ankle monitor for a another crime committed as a juvenile.
Flowers now sit on the side of the road in Soulsville. A tragic reminder where a 19-year-old was fatally shot.
Police say the gunman, Eugene McShane, just turned 18 years old.
“He got a chance, and then another chance,” Jeffrey Higgs said.
Higgs said McShane and the victim were in his program, YouthBuild, helping at-risk youth with education and work.
Shelby County Juvenile Court stated McShane had received probation for aggravated robbery last year, but that wasn’t the charge that landed him in the program and with an ankle monitor.
Staff couldn’t say what that charge was since state law prohibits them from releasing information about certain crimes when it comes to juveniles.
What is clear is it wasn’t the first time something like this happened.
Last year, police say a 15-year-old wearing an ankle monitor killed a beloved pastor during a carjacking in Whitehaven.
Another teen wearing one was with his buddies when they reportedly crashed a stolen car into a woman’s front lawn.
Another teen wearing the device accused of stealing this man’s car he uses for work.
“Seems like they gave chase and hit something,” he said showing us his car that police later recovered.
Last month, police said another teen with an ankle monitor and two more juveniles stole a Maserati with a dog inside.
From November through July, WREG Investigators have uncovered 61 reports involving kids wearing an ankle monitor being somewhere they’re not supposed to be. Often times, the report states they ran away from home, but in two thirds of those cases, they’re accused or connected to a crime like stealing a car, vandalism and even a shooting.
“Just like all of the things we have going from child welfare to delinquency, we are in the process of looking at the legacy systems we have inherited,” Juvenile Court Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Stephanie Hill said.
She said their goal is to keep the community safe.
“And so information in terms in all the exact steps with electronic monitoring isn’t probably something that we should share publicly,” she said.
Hill said she thinks the program is working though.
Through past interviews with the juvenile court judge and through the Tennessee Records Act, here’s what we’ve been able to find out.
Five to eleven staffers, depending on the time of day, are monitoring them 24-7.
Once staff gets an alert, they will immediately contact the child and parent, and if needed, the court will issue a warrant to have an officer go to the child’s home.
The child can be assigned an ankle monitor before their case is heard and as part of their sentence. Juvenile court reports on average, a child will wear it four to six months.
The contract with the ankle monitor provider states the device receives “one GPS location point per minute,” and the system lays out information like “GPS location points, curfew violations, tamper alerts, zones” and more.
While they have a system for police, juvenile court has not granted MPD access. MPD can only request information.
Hill said they are also working with technical assistance programs on guidance to be the most impactful for youth on probation.
We asked Hill if they’ve noticed an increase in children on ankle monitors being brought back to juvenile court.
“I can’t say I would know the specific number off the top of my head,” she said.
Juvenile court also stated they do not have a recidivism rate for electronic monitoring due to limitations in their system. We tried asking about the cases we’ve uncovered.
“Cases before the court, it’s inappropriate for me to speak to,” Hill said.
Dan Michael said he can comment on those cases now that he’s the former juvenile court judge.
“Ankle monitors work for 98 percent of kids who come out of detention until trial,” Michael said. “My frustration was the kids who would go out after being released on an ankle monitor and commit more delinquent acts. A lot of them would cut them off.”
Michael said for him and other judges, it’s hard to predict what a child will do. He brought up a former as an example where the child had no serious record, so he got an ankle monitor. While wearing it, he said he shot someone.
“The problem with children is that their frontal lobes haven’t finished growing so when something critical gets in the way that impulse blooms and they make stupid decisions,” he said.
Memphis Shelby Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons added there’s not enough accountability, and kids know that.
Gibbons said there will be 350-400 children charged with a violent crime this year. With limited beds at secure facilities across the state, many will have to be released on community supervision. He said to make it work, those kids must be checked on daily to ensure they’re on the right course.
“We don’t have that system in place, but we need to move in that direction,” Gibbons said.
He said it will take more money. It’s something juvenile court recognizes.
“We have a $4.6 million ask in front of the county commission,” Hill said.
She said the funding would help with staffing, who are stretched extremely thin largely due to turnover with entry-level staff. She said the money would help them manage cases and provide the right referrals for delinquency and child welfare cases.
Michael also believes there has to be more money spent on the inner city neighborhoods.
He said they aren’t getting the attention they need and deserve. He said there’s blighted buildings, roads in disrepair, trash, overgrown lots and schools are closing because the buildings are falling apart. Michael said taxes have to be raised to fix the blight, repave streets and rebuild inner city schools.
He said once the city and county start working with these communities, the hopelessness will fade.
“You’ll see the community improve and see hope raise in the community and really hit at the crime problem. The children I saw, Jessica, had no hope. They would tell you that. ‘I didn’t expect to live past 18.’ ‘I didn’t expect to live past 17.’ You’ve got a 16 – 17-year-old standing in front of you saying that,” he said. “Think about that as an adult when a 17-year-old tells you I didn’t expect to live this long. That’s horrible. But that’s our fault for letting the system go into dilapidation like we have over time.”
Hill said juvenile court still has a lot of assessing to do, but their mission is to create good opportunities and rehabilitate children.
“That’s the goal. If we can do something that’s less harmful to keep a child on track to go to school, graduate and become thriving citizens that’s what we want to do,” she said. “I think everyone in Memphis wants to have and everyone in Shelby County wants to have a county that thrives. To get there If that involves more resources, that’s what we should do to make it happen.”