Hawkins child abuse death reminder of Scotty Trexler case

Hawkins child abuse death reminder of Scotty Trexler case

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By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

MOORESBURG (WATE) - It will be at least another week before charges are filed in the beating death of a three-year-old Hawkins County girl.

The sheriff is still waiting for autopsy results to tell him exactly how Emily Barnard died. He and family members blame the girlfriend of Emily's father, Amber Gibson, who is being held on other charges.

This case is reminding locals of a similar tragedy in Hawkins County nearly 25 years ago, when 21-month-old Scotty Trexler died after being abused by his mother's boyfriend. 

"Just the horror of what was done to that poor boy," remembered retired Judge James E. Beckner. It's something that's stayed with him.

"All the burning and the bruises," he recalled.

The man prosecutors said repeatedly abused little Scotty Trexler, his mother's boyfriend Kerry Bowers, was charged with first degree murder. But the jury wasn't convinced the death was premeditated and found Bowers guilty of second degree murder instead.

Tammy Trexler was convicted of aggravated assault and failure to report the abuse of her son. 

"I thought they could have convicted them and that they were guilty of first degree murder," Beckner said. 

The community was outraged. Beckner and others went all the way to Nashville to fight for stronger punishment for child abusers, what ultimately became the Scotty Trexler Law.

It added aggravated child abuse as a felony that now qualifies for first degree murder.

"It allows for punishment equal to the crime," Beckner said.

Beckner said not enough is known yet about Emily Barnard's death to say whether the Scotty Trexler Law could be applied.

"It is strikingly similar," he said. "We need to have an awareness because I think a lot of people don't know how much child abuse continues to go on."

Tammy Trexler was released from prison in the early 90s. Kerry Bowers has a parole hearing next month.

The Scotty Trexler Law has allowed at least one Tennessee jury to sentence a child abuser to death, but Bobby Gene Godsey's sentence was commuted to life without parole on appeal.

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