In a quavering voice and racked by sobs, Friday morning, a 37-year-old Dierks woman pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual assault, a class A felony, in a relationship with a 16-year-old female.
Amy D. Fennell had originally sought a bench trial, but instead switched her plea to guilty.
In the Howard County courtroom Friday morning, standing beside her attorney, Mickey Buchanan of Ashdown, Fennell had to tell Judge Tom Cooper exactly what she did. The judge went through a list of questions about her understanding of the crime and her current state of mind. He warned that she could not change her mind about the plea when she returned to be sentenced.
Fennell is to report back to the same courtroom Wednesday of this week for formal pronouncement of her sentence. Judge Cooper told her that the sentence would be six years in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) with three years suspended; also, fines and a requirement that she register as a sex offender for 25 years.
District Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Chesshir told the judge that the victim and her family were present, and agreed to the sentence.
In the courtroom Friday morning were about a dozen people, including the victim and members of her family, and the north Howard County church where the defendant was a youth teacher and bus driver.
Fennell tearfully admitted she abused her position as an adult and in her church, and should have put a stop to the relationship. Charges were filed in January of 2013.