The Houston Chronicle

August 18, 2009 Tuesday 3 STAR R.O. EDITION

A CASE HISTORY OF TRAGEDY ‘THE SYSTEM FAILED EMMA' Before the little girl was killed, there were many chances to put the man accused of hurting her in jail for violating probation. No one would. COE: No answers from those closest to case
BYLINE: By TERRI LANGFORD, HOUSTON CHRONICLE SECTION: A; Pg. 1 LENGTH: 863 words

Before Lucas Coe was accused of inflicting the injuries that may have killed 4-year-old Emma Thompson, there were at least five chances to keep him behind bars in two different counties. The last opportunity came just three months before Emma turned up in a Houston-area emergency room, sexually abused and fatally beaten. Both Coe, 27, and his girlfriend, Emma's mother, Abigail Young, 33, have been charged with injury to a child in Emma's June 27 death. No trial date has been set. But a closer look at Coe's criminal history reveals some troubling facts - any of which might have altered the turn of events that led to the Spring girl's homicide. While Coe was serving six years of probation for a 2002 Harris County aggravated assault, records show, he was convicted for DWI, pleaded guilty to a Montgomery County assault, failed to meet with a probation officer, got behind in his restitution to the Harris County victim and was indicted on a child abuse charge in Montgomery County. Four motions to revoke his probation in the Harris County case were made: two in 2005 and two in 2008. Two of those were overruled by state District Judge Marc Carter. Two others were dismissed by the judge at the request of prosecutors in the case. At least twice in that period, Coe was jailed for violating the terms of his probation. But his probation was never revoked, which could have forced him to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison. And when he missed a Montgomery County court date on a 2007 charge of injury to a different child, his bond was not revoked in that case - it was reinstated. It turned out that he missed court because he was in the Harris County Jail serving time for violating terms of his Harris County probation.

Yet this overlapping criminal history, which had Coe ping-ponging from one county to the next, was not enough to keep him from being released from his probation in March when Carter signed the form announcing Coe had "satisfactorily fulfilled the conditions of supervision imposed by the court." Attempts to reach Carter, Montgomery County prosecutors and Coe's attorney for comment were unsuccessful. A Harris County prosecutor in Coe's case referred questions to spokeswoman Donna Hawkins, who would only say that "it's not unusual through the course of a six-year probation that issues might arise with compliance." Emma first came to the attention of Texas Child Protective Services on June 8 after her pediatrician reported the little girl had blisters in her mouth and on her vagina that appeared to be genital herpes. After tests proved the diagnosis correct, Emma was given a sexual abuse exam at Texas Children's Hospital. No abuse was confirmed, and because genital herpes in rare cases can be spread in a nonsexual manner, the little girl was not removed from her home. "The system failed Emma, bottom line." said Andy Kahan, Houston's Victim Assistance coordinator. "None of this should have ever happened. He should have been locked up in a prison." Coe's criminal history through two courthouses, two jails and a probation department raised other questions no one seemed able to answer. The Houston Chronicle was unable to verify whether Coe completed all 800 hours of his community service, or who made most of his $40,000 restitution to the victim in the 2002 case, considering that as of last December, he was behind in completing both tasks. The Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department will not give information out about a probationer's case without approval from a judge. The department forwarded the Chronicle's request for information to Judge Carter last week. By Monday, there was no approval from Judge Carter to release that information. Several Chronicle attempts since Friday to reach Carter regarding the four motions to revoke the probation went unanswered. Attempts to reach prosecutors in the 2007 Montgomery County child abuse case now pending against Coe, including why the case was reset at least 15 times, and how Coe was able to get bond when he was on probation for a felony in Harris County, also were unsuccessful. Messages left Monday for Montgomery county prosecutors about Coe's case, along with Coe's attorney Chris Warren, were not returned. terri.langford@chron.com

LOST CHANCES Lucas Coe was sentenced in 2003 to six years of probation for aggravated assault in Harris County. Despite violating probation repeatedly, it was never revoked. June 8, 2005: Motion to revoke is filed after Coe commits a DWI. Judge overrules it. Sept. 29, 2005: Motion to revoke is filed after he fails to report to probation officer. Judge overrules it. Feb. 20, 2008: Motion to revoke is filed, based on his child abuse indictment in Montgomery County. Motion dismissed. Dec. 12, 2008: Motion to revoke is filed based on Coe's failure to perform community service, indictment in abuse case, failure to pay restitution. Motion is dismissed. Feb. 9, 2009: Coe fails to show up in court in Montgomery County child abuse case because he is jailed in Harris County. Still, his bond is not revoked. In fact, the bond is reinstated. March 25, 2009: Lucas Coe's six- year probation ends. June 27, 2009: Emma Thompson is killed.

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