Danielle Louise Stephens, 23, of Manchester, sobbed quietly Wednesday morning as she sat inside the courtroom of Madison County Circuit Court Judge Nathan Pride. Shackled and in jail clothing, Stephens had just made the decision to enter a guilty plea on charges she faced involving two runaway girls.
Stephens pleaded guilty to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, possession of marijuana, two counts of casual exchange of a schedule II controlled substance to a minor, two counts of casual exchange of a schedule IV controlled substance to a minor and two counts of harboring a runaway. She was sentenced to a total effective sentence of six years in prison.
Stephens will be transferred from the Madison County Jail to the Tennessee Department of Corrections and will get credit for time served. She will also be required to have DNA testing and was ordered to have no contact with the victims, one of which is her niece.
Before standing before the judge and telling him that she had accepted the plea deal, Stephens cried quietly on a courtroom bench. A courtroom deputy brought her a box of Kleenex, which Stephens accepted.
According to Jackson police, on April 11, around 11:50 a.m., officers were dispatched to a house, located in the 400 block of Burkett Street, regarding two children who were suspected runaways. Police found Stephens and two minor girls inside the home asleep.
Police said an investigation determined that the two girls were 15-year-old runaways from Coffee County and Bedford County. The Coffee County runaway is Stephens' niece and the Bedford County runaway is the niece's friend. Stephens had brought the girls to Jackson from Coffee County. They had been in Jackson for about three days and during that time, Stephens gave the girls alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamine.
While officers were on the scene, they found three grams of marijuana underneath a pillow, which Stephens admitted was hers, police said.
Stephens was transported to the Madison County Jail, where she was being held on a $25,000 bond. She was originally charged with two counts of child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and simple possession of marijuana.
Police transported the runaways to the Madison County Juvenile Detention Center, where they were picked up by Shelbyville authorities on April 12 and taken back home.
According to the plea agreement, Stephens will be required to testify against an unidentified male subject, if he is ever caught, who is believed to have been involved in the incident.