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Lawyer: Freezer case mom ‘OK,’ working through issues

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mitchelle Blair, housed in an isolated Wayne County Jail cell, is contemplating the “challenges” she faces after being accused of torturing her four children and killing two of them before burying their bodies in a chest freezer, her lawyer said Monday.

Blair was arrested last week after 36th District Court bailiffs went to her townhouse in the Martin Luther King apartments to evict her, only to find the bodies of 9-year-old Stephen Berry and 13-year-old Stoni Blair inside the freezer, which was kept near the front door.

“She realizes she has some challenges to work through,” said attorney Wyatt G. Harris, who was appointed Friday. “I met with her, and she’s doing OK, but she recognizes there are things she needs to get through, and she’ll get through them.”

When asked if he would seek a competency hearing to determine if his client is mentally fit to stand trial, Harris said, “I’m exploring all options. I haven’t made a decision on any of them yet.”

A Detroit police investigator’s report and a petition filed Thursday in Wayne County Juvenile Court, based on interviews with Blair and her two surviving children, ages 8 and 17, detail how the mother allegedly tortured her children by beating them with hot irons, wood planks and extension cords.

She also reportedly starved her daughter before strangling her to death, nine months after allegedly scalding and killing her son. According to the court petition, Blair forced her 17-year-old daughter to entomb her sister in the freezer, and the boy also was aware of his siblings’ bodies inside the freezer.

The children’s great-aunt Angela Gordon, a retired Detroit Police child abuse investigator who is taking care of the two surviving children, said Monday she’s still working on funeral arrangements, adding the siblings are coping with the tragedy.

“They’re doing OK,” she said.

Although court and police documents accuse Blair of killing her two children, she has only been charged with first-degree child abuse, a 15-year felony; and one count of committing child abuse first-degree in the presence of another child, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. Bond was set at $1 million.

“We are waiting for some further information from the medical examiner before we can determine any new charges,” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller said Monday.

Autopsies conducted Friday determined the children died from multiple blunt trauma wounds and burns, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, which declared their deaths homicides.

Though isolated in jail, Blair is not on suicide watch, Blair said.

The case has shocked many, and prompted an outpouring of community support. The group Mothers of Murdered Children is planning a town hall meeting Monday night at Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park.

Group spokesman the Rev. David Bullock on Monday released a written statement, saying he was concerned for the mother, her children and others involved in the case.

“Our prayers go out to Mitchelle Blair, all her children, their father and the larger community,” Bullock said. “This is a terrible tragedy. It is also a call to action. It is time to find solutions to the individual dysfunction and institutional decay in our communities.”

Court records show Child Protective Services workers twice investigated Blair for abusing her children, and that the abuse was substantiated, although she was allowed to retain custody. When doctors examined the two surviving children last week, they found them covered with welts and scars from repeated beatings, according to court records.

Gordon has said she knew there was some abuse going on with all four kids, but didn’t realize the extent. She said she often bought food for the children until she and Blair had a falling out after she insisted she start taking better care of her family. After that, she said Blair cut off contact.

The children’s two fathers, who each owe back child support, also said Blair did not allow them to see their kids, although there are no records showing either man called authorities to insist they be allowed visitation.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

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