A southeastern Missouri teenager has pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in the July beating of a gay neighbor. Prosecutors dropped a burglary charge against 17-year-old Mercedes Ayers in exchange for her plea Monday in Cape Girardeau County Circuit Court. Ayers pleaded guilty to felony assault motivated by discrimination in the attack on 41-year-old Jeana Terry. Police said Terry was inside her Cape Girardeau home when Ayers began shouting anti-gay slurs. Ayers then went to Terry’s porch with two younger children, pulled Terry outside and attacked her while making comments about her sexuality. Terry suffered serious injuries. She’s relieved by Ayers’ plea and says she hopes the teen will be able to turn her life around and finish high school. Ayers will be sentenced in November.
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