DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A judge has ordered a competency exam for a 35-year-old Detroit mother charged in the slayings of two of her children whose bodies were found in a deep freezer.
Mitchelle Blair appeared in court Thursday for a probable cause hearing in front of Judge Kenneth King.
WWJ’s Vickie Thomas reported Blair had a blank look in her eyes as she was formally charged with felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, torture and child abuse. A not guilty plea was entered on her behalf.
King questioned Blair’s attorney, Wyatt Harris, when he asked the court to grant his motion for a competency exam.
“What’s your basis in asking for that? Are you saying that the defendant isn’t understanding this process as she stands here now,” King asked.
“I believe so,” Harris responded.
He said his client made a statement to authorities following her arrest and he wants her evaluated for competency to waive her Miranda rights, competency to stand trial and competency to understand criminal responsibility.
Harris also asked to review two videos of interviews between Blair’s surviving children and “Kids Talk” investigators.
“I feel it is necessary that I have sufficient time and opportunity to review those interviews,” Harris said, acknowledging a confidentiality notice on the tapes. Judge King granted that motion.
Blair — who has the names of her children tattooed on her arm, including the ones she supposedly murdered — was ordered held without bond ahead of a June 19 court appearance.
Talking to reporters following Thursday’s arraignment, Harris was asked about his client’s mental state.
“There are times when she can communicate in a very effective manner, and there are times where she can’t,” Harris said.
Has she expressed any regret?
“I haven’t asked her to do that,” Harris said.
Court officers carrying out a March 24 eviction at Blair’s home in the Martin Luther King Apartments found the frozen corpses of 13-year-old Stoni Ann Blair and 9-year-old Stephen Gage Berry. Blair initially was charged with child abuse, but more charges were added after autopsies revealed the siblings were beaten to death.
Investigators believe Stephen died in August 2012 and Stoni died the following May. Blair’s two surviving children — a 17-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy — have been placed into a relative’s care. The state also made a filing last week to end Blair’s parental rights.
The 17-year-old told child welfare officials that their mother tortured Stephen “for approximately two weeks prior to his death by tying a belt around his neck, throwing hot water on him while in the shower and putting a plastic bag over his head.”
In the court filing, the state Department of Human Services said the 17-year-old also told them that after Blair killed Stephen, his body was wrapped in a bed linen and put in the freezer.
The daughter told officials that in May 2013, Stoni incensed their mother by saying she didn’t like either of the surviving siblings, and the mother strangled Stoni with a T-shirt and placed a plastic bag over her mouth.
The oldest girl said she was forced her to put her sister’s body in the freezer, the agency wrote.
The state said it investigated allegations of abuse in 2002 and 2005, and that Blair was referred to counseling.
Officials say the two fathers of Blair’s surviving children are unfit to care for them. Together they owe $50,000 in child support and haven’t seen the kids in two to three years.
Blair will be back in court June 19 for a preliminary hearing.
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