The mother of two Detroit children whose bodies were found in a deep freezer in their home was charged with child abuse Wednesday and could face more serious charges once investigators determine how the boy and girl died.
Mitchelle Blair, 35, was arrested Tuesday after court officers serving an eviction notice at her home opened the freezer and found the bodies of her daughter Stoni Ann Blair and her son Stephen Gage Berry.
The county medical examiner was hoping to conduct autopsies on the children’s bodies Wednesday but had to wait until they had fully thawed. The police, meanwhile, weren’t saying much about their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the children’s deaths and the conditions in the home near downtown Detroit, where Blair’s other two children had also been living.
‘While we all understand the desire to know what happened in that home is strong, I will ask you to be mindful of the two children who were also in that home and are still living,’ Detroit Police Chief James Craig told reporters Wednesday. ‘They’ve been through a lot, a tremendous trauma.’
The two surviving children, a 17-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy, were placed in protective custody on Tuesday.
Blair is charged with five counts of first-degree child abuse, one of which could land her in prison for life, said Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. She may face further charges after the autopsies are completed.
Prosecutors believe that when they died, Stoni was 13 years old and Stephen was 9. Stoni would have been 15 now, if alive, and Stephen would have been 11.
Neighbors said they hadn’t seen the dead children in about a year. None of the four children was enrolled in Detroit schools, and friends said their mother was home-schooling them.
Under state law, Michigan parents have the right to homeschool their children. Educating them, assigning homework and testing are the parent’s responsibility.
Registering the home school to the state Education office is voluntary, unless the student is special needs and special education services have been requested from the local school district.
The state was not notified that Blair’s children were being homeschooled this year, said Education Department spokesman Bill Disessa.
Neighbors say Blair has lived in the complex at least 10 years. She was unemployed and having money troubles, and she had gotten behind on her rent. Neighbors said they knew about the impending eviction. Court records show a judgment filed last month against her for $2,206 owed to the complex.
Despite her money and other problems, friends call her a good mother. Blair is known throughout the complex of low-income townhomes as ‘Angel’ – a play on her middle name, Angela, that she got because she is so well-liked, said neighbors Carrie McDonald and Shay Wilson.
‘The mother is a beautiful person. She was just going through some things,’ McDonald said. ‘She has a good heart.’
But neighbors rarely saw the four children outdoors. Some say they hadn’t seen Stoni and Stephen for about a year.
‘She really don’t let them outside,’ said Wilson. ‘They are always in the house.’
In announcing the charges against Blair, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said ‘the alleged facts in this case present examples of why we must all be diligent and involved citizens.’
Blair allegedly confessed to the murder of her two children, according to a police source
It has been claimed that Blair allegedly confessed to strangling her son in May 2012, according to WXYZ, who are quoting a police source.
She is also said to have admitted torturing her daughter to death just nine months later, the news channel reported.
Police were called in by the bailiffs after they discovered the girl’s body in the chest freezer next to the front door. Her sibling’s corpse was found later.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the mother was taken into custody after an apartment resident informed officers she was staying with someone at a different home inside the complex, according to the Detroit News.
Craig said the mother was handcuffed when she was taken into custody.
Blair describes herself as ‘Loyal to my babies’ on her Facebook page.
Blair posted a photo with a message in January
On January 30, the posted a photo with a message.
It read: ‘There is no greater blessing than being called MOM.’
Before she was taken into custody, the mother reportedly said her son was raped and that the sexual assault had been carried out by his siblings.
Police have not confirmed that is the case and it is unclear if she was talking about the boy who was found in the freezer.
She filed a paternity suit in 1999 which resulted in a man being ordered to pay child support.
Blair filed another suit in 2007 against another man which had the same result.
Her brother Marlon Blair told the Detroit Newsearlier this week: ‘It’s too early to even say what this could be, or to make any judgments.
‘She didn’t have any emotional problems from what I’m aware of. I don’t know what to say about this.’
Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt told the Detroit News earlier this week it appeared the bodies had been in the freezer for ‘over a year’ and that the mother had been living in the apartment ‘with other children while the bodies were in the freezer’.
‘This is a terrible situation,’ he said.
No weapons were discovered after the apartment was searched and police do not yet have a motive.
Neighbor Shanetria Lanier, 21, told the Detroit News Blair home-schooled her children and ‘that’s why no schools were wondering where they were’.
There is no record of the children attending classes, according to a Detroit Public Schools official.
People did notice that two of her children seemed to disappear about a year ago.
Lanier told the newspaper: ‘When people asked her where her other two kids are, she said they were at their aunt’s house.
‘Or sometimes she’d tell people they stayed inside because they didn’t like to be around people.’
Craig said the Detroit News that police were still ‘trying to determine what happened’.
The cause of death won’t be known until after autopsies are conducted.
Tori Childs, who also lives in the complex, told the Detroit News she often saw the children and sometimes gave them clothes or food.
She said they were ‘the nicest kids’ who were ‘so respectable’.
‘This is just wrong,’ she said in tears.
Childs said she saw two bodies on the floor after police arrived at the home.
‘It was a little girl and a little boy,’ she said. ‘The little girl had on a pink jacket.’
Source: Daily Mail