The name of child trauma expert Dr. James Henry was incorrectly reported in this article.
Detroit — The parental rights of convicted child murderer Mitchelle Blair and the father of her surviving 8-year-old son were terminated Monday by a Wayne County judge.
The father of her 18-year-old surviving daughter retained his parental rights although Wayne County family court Judge Edward Joseph noted: “Mr. (Alexander) Dorsey certainly hasn’t been a good father.”
Joseph said he retained the parental rights for Dorsey, who was the father of Blair’s two daughters. One of them, 13-year-old Stoni Blair, was found dead in a standalone freezer in the family’s home. Her mother admitted to killing her, allegedly as revenge for raping a younger relative. She also admitted to killing her eldest son, 9-year-old Stephen Berry.
The father of Blair’s surviving young son, Steven Berry, said nothing to reporters as he walked out of the courthouse with disappointment on his face over the judge’s ruling.
Dorsey said he was happy with the ruling although a child trauma expert said the daughter said during a session observed by the expert between the dad and daughter that she doesn’t want a relationship with her father.
After court, Dorsey said he felt his daughter will change his mind.
“I’m glad she’s going to get two years of college,” said Dorsey about the judge’s ruling, which allows his daughter to become a ward of the state and get access to college and a treatment program.
In her closing arguments, Assistant Michigan Attorney General Kelli Megyesi urged the judge to terminate the parental rights of Blair and the fathers because all three “forfeited their rights to their children” through Blair’s actions and the dads’ inaction.
Blair, Dorsey and Berry “relinquished those rights. They forfeited those rights years ago,” Megyesi said. “These children are entitled. They are deserving of a fresh start .... a break ... a separation from all those people ... all those things that caused them the abuse, the trauma, the torture, the neglect. And all of these three people contributed to their abuse, their trauma, their torture. Mother directly and father indirectly. This court has already ruled they failed to protect.”
The attorneys for Dorsey and Berry argued the dads wanted to retain their parental rights. Laura Anderson, the lawyer for Berry, told the judge he’s willing to enter into parenting programs aimed at helping him get custody of his child.
Blair also spoke during the hearing saying, “I have never desired to fight for my (parental) rights.”
“My rights should be taken,” said a calm-speaking Blair via video hookup from prison. She said Dorsey and Berry do not deserve custody and asked the judge to give custody to her aunt, a Detroit police officer, and her uncle saying the two would offer her children a loving and stable home.
“It would be in the best interest of any child to be placed with her,” Blair said. “If I had been in their care I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
The judge, Megyesi and the attorneys for the mom and children said the fathers were not the best choice for the children. They noted Berry’s lack of housing and employment.
Megyesi said the fathers cannot and have not offered their children stability.
Dr. James Henry, a child trauma expert, said both children will need a lot of therapy and that the boy is at “the crossroads” in his development. He said the children will need trauma therapy and other counseling for a long time after growing up in the home where their two siblings were killed by their mother.
“(The daughter) never knew what was going to happen next,” testified Henry, director of the Southwest Children’s Trauma Assessment Center. “It became clear she was living in a constant terror.”
The girl became the parent to the little boy and also became his protector, becoming afraid he could be harmed or killed when left alone with their mother.
Henry quoted the surviving daughter as saying she “became numb” from the events that unfolded in the family’s east side townhouse.
Henry said the children experienced so much terror in the home that the boy has problems with his neurological development and will need therapy all of his childhood.
The girl told Henry she felt guilty because she could not protect her brother and sister from being murdered by their mom.
At a hearing last month, Joseph found there was a statutory basis to terminate the parental rights of Blair and the fathers.
Henry told the judge all the parents should have their rights terminated so the children can grow up in a nurturing, safe and stable environment,which, he says, is provided by Blair’s aunt.
Blair was sentenced July 17 to life in prison without possibility of parole after she admitted murdering the two children.
Blair in earlier court appearances said that she put the kids’ bodies in a standalone freezer in the family’s home in the Martin Luther King apartments on the city’s east side.
Their bodies were found by court officers coming to evict the family for non-payment of rent in March.