Cab driver Casey McPeak pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to charges that he endangered the life and health of a child.
The charges are connected to the efforts of a 13-year-old girl to run away from her Mount Vernon home in June to a campsite near Waterloo. The girl hired McPeak, 55, of Mount Vernon to drive her. Authorities said he shouldn’t have agreed to drive an underage girl so far from home without the permission of a responsible adult.
When asked by a judge how he chose to plead, McPeak said “not guilty,” and when asked whether he understood the charges agaist him, he responded, “yes.”
Outside the courtroom after the hearing, McPeak replied only “I have no comment at this time” to a reporter’s questions.
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The teen, JaTe’a Lejla Frank, was the subject of a search that involved more than 100 law enforcement officers before she was found about 24 hours after she went missing.
Frank was found after spending a night in the woods near Camp Wartburg.
Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said Frank had been at Camp Wartburg two weeks before she returned. Authorities believe she was trying to get back in touch with a counselor she was close to at the camp.
McPeak is scheduled to next appear in court on Sept. 2.