Parents may pay the price for an illicit love affair between a teenage girl and her grown-up boyfriend.
Stephen Rogers Jr. faces a charge of statutory rape, but police have also charged his girlfriend's parents with child neglect.
The parents admitted they didn't stop the relationship, in fact they did something to signal their approval.
She's 15. He's 21.
Bottom line: Their sexual relationship broke the law.
But some do not see this as a black-and-white kind of issue.
The young love between a 15-year-old girl and her 21-year-old boyfriend has this neighborhood taking sides.
"Some 15 year olds may be able to handle it, and some may not," neighbor Virginia Presnell said.
"He seems like a good guy," neighbor Angela Moore said. "I know there's an age difference, quite an age difference, but they're actually a really good couple. They're almost one of those perfect little couples you never see anymore."
Police arrested and charged Stephen Rogers Jr. on a single charge of statutory rape, but he's dated the 15-year-old for months.
Her parents liked Stephen, and six months ago, they invited him to live with their daughter inside their home.
Some neighbors saw a problem.
"I don't think a 15-year-old should be with a 21-year-old," Presnell said.
But some neighbors like Moore seem conflicted.
"It's just a fine line. It's really a fine line," Moore said. "I'm not going to say that it's OK. It's just that with their relationship, it's a little different."
A neighbor alerted the state's Department of Children's Services and from there, Smithville police investigated.
They wound up charging not only the 21-year-old, but also the 15-year-old's parents.
Bryan and Donna Smith each face a misdemeanor charge of child neglect.
According to court records, they admitted they approved of the relationship and several times gave the couple condoms.
Some neighbors saw that as responsible, not negligent.
But what police see matters more and will shape the future for both the couple and the parents.
"There's so much other stuff in this county that's so much worse going on, and they're worried about this," Moore said. "I find it to be kind of bogus really."
Because the case involves a child, investigators would not speak with Channel 4 News on camera today.
All three of those facing charges will be in court in the next few weeks.
DCS also continues to investigate the incident.
Channel 4 News does not know whether the Smiths still have custody of their daughter tonight.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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