Friend says mother accused in freezer case was loving

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mitchelle Blair, accused of killing two of her children and entombing them in a freezer and abusing her two other kids, was described as a loving parent Thursday as testimony wrapped up in a parental custody hearing.

Blair, 35, interrupted the proceedings several times, muttering "lie" during testimony in juvenile court, prompting deputies to warn her to be silent. As she was being escorted into the courtroom, hands cuffed in front of her, she flashed her middle finger toward the fathers of her children, Alexander Dorsey and Steven Berry — a repeat of a gesture she made during a hearing last week.

Blair was arrested in March, after court bailiffs went to her townhouse in the Martin Luther King apartment complex to evict her, only to find the bodies of 9-year-old Stephen Berry and 13-year-old Stoni Blair inside the freezer near the front door.

Blair's visitation rights to her surviving children were suspended,after she was charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of premeditated murder and one count of torture.

Judge Edward Joseph will make a custody ruling at the next scheduled hearing in the case June 30.

The day Blair was arrested, she was babysitting the son of Victoria Johnson, who lived nearby in the apartment complex.

Johnson testified Thursday she named Blair the godmother of her 1-year-old son, "because she loved him, and he loved her."

"She was my friend," said Johnson, 21, adding Blair — whom she called "Angel" — watched her son "almost every day. They were always together."

Johnson said she saw no signs of abuse on Blair's surviving two children, other than the daughter's chipped tooth and a gash over her eye, although she said she witnessed Blair become "verbally violent" toward others "because of the children."

"She was very protective of her kids," she said. "Of all kids, not just her kids."

Assistant Michigan Attorney General Kelli Megyesi asked Johnson whether, knowing what she knows now, would she let Blair watch her son.

"No, not alone," she replied.

Johnson said Blair explained the absence of Stoni and Stephen by saying they were staying with an aunt. She said she had a good relationship with her other children, a 17-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy, who are now living with their great-aunt.

"(The girl) respected Angel," she said. "I would say they had a good relationship."

Johnson said of the boy: "He was her baby. He was spoiled."

Her testimony is in stark contrast to reports by social workers, who said both surviving children had signs of physical abuse, including being beaten and burned.

Johnson's live-in boyfriend, DeJuan Martin, also painted a picture of Blair as a loving parent whom he trusted to watch his children.

"She loved my kids," he said. "Whenever she came over (she would give his son a) bath, (and) put him to sleep."

According to a police report bearing Martin's signature, which was read aloud in court, he told investigators that when the two surviving children were asked about Stoni's and Stephen's whereabouts, "they always said the same thing but they looked nervous, scared."

However, on the witness stand, Martin insisted: "I never said that. I said they would say (Stoni and Stephen) were upstairs."

Martin said he saw no signs of abuse on the two children. But they always wore long-sleeved shirts and pants, even during the summer, according to testimony by registered nurse Michelle Barnett, Dorsey's ex-girlfriend.

Megyesi asked: "As a registered nurse, did you find it unusual that the children were never in T-shirts or shorts, even in the summer?"

Barnett said she didn't find it unusual. She also said when she and Dorsey visited the children, it was always on Blair's porch.

Megyesi also asked if that raised any red flags. Barnett replied: "No ... because of the person you had to deal with."

Blair cut in: "Because she's lying," prompting deputies to warn her to be quiet.

During previous proceedings, Blair had to be removed from the courtroom three times after yelling out.

After Thursday's proceedings wrapped up, Joseph explained to the media he'll decide two issues.

"Does the court have temporary custody of the children? And is there a statutory basis to terminate the rights of the parent?

"The attorney general is trying to show they can meet these two things, and if the court finds it's true, there will be a best interests hearing before I make a ruling (whether to revoke custody of Blair and either or both fathers)."

GHunter@detroitnews.com

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