Autopsy shows Detroit siblings in freezer died of blunt force trauma

Family court filing suggests mother of children found in Detroit freezer confessed to killings

Two children found dead in a freezer in Detroit earlier this week died of injuries from blunt force trauma, a medical examiner ruled Friday, and a separate court filing suggested their mother confessed to killing them.

The same court filing says the children's mother, 35-year-old Mitchelle Blair, beat and strangled the two children and forced her oldest daughter to place one of the children's corpses in the freezer where the bodies were discovered.

The bodies of Stoni Ann Blair, 13, and Stephen Gage Berry, 9, were found in a deep freezer by a bailiff trying to serve an eviction notice at a home on Detroit's east side Monday morning, police said.

Blair was arrested later that day and charged with multiple counts of child abuse in connection with their deaths.

Ryan Bridges, a spokesman for the medical examiner's office, said an autopsy did not reveal an exact time of death. Stoni Ann died solely of blunt force trauma injuries, Bridges told the Los Angeles Times. Stephen died of blunt force injuries and thermal injuries, possibly referring to burns, according to Bridges, who declined to comment further on the specific nature of those injuries.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy has said Blair could face additional charges. Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Atty. Maria Miller said her office would not be filing any additional charges on Friday but that the investigation of the deaths continues.

While Blair has yet to be charged with the children's deaths, a family court filing released by the Michigan attorney general's office this week contains a reference to her confessing to the killings. It also details a littany of gruesome abuses she is believed to have committed against her four children.

The filing, which argues that Blair's 17-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son should not remain in her custody, contends that the woman "has severely physically abused her children and admitted to killing two of her children." Blair's surviving children, who were living with her when the bodies were discovered, have been placed in protective custody, prosecutors said.

Earlier this week, Blair's teen daughter told child services investigators that Stephen Gage Berry died in August of 2012, according to the court filing. Stoni Ann Blair died in May of 2013, the document says.

Mitchelle Blair strangled Stoni Ann "with a black tee-shirt and suffocated her with a plastic bag," according to the court filing. She then forced her older daughter to place her sister's body in the freezer.

The 17-year-old also told investigators that Mitchelle Blair "tortured Stephen for approximately two weeks prior to his death" by tying a belt around his neck, burning him with hot water and placing a plastic bag over his head, according to the court filing.

Both Blair's 17-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son had also suffered bruising, cuts and broken teeth as a result of their mother's alleged abuse, court records show.

The children had been largely hidden from public view, according to the document. They had not been to school in two years, and Blair allegedly blocked the children's biological fathers from visiting them.

Michigan Child Protective Services responded to allegations of abuse involving the family in 2002 and 2005, according to the document, and the allegations were substantiated. It was not clear why Blair was allowed to retain custody after those incidents.

Blair has remained in police custody since Monday, and is charged with first-degree child abuse and one count of committing child abuse in the presence of another child, prosecutors said. She could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. 

The last post on a Facebook page believed to belong to Blair was written in January and reads, "There is no greater blessing than being a Mom." 

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

12:34 p.m.: This post updated with details contained in a family court filing that disclosed a series of abuse allegations against Mitchelle Blair.

The first version of this post published at 11:54 a.m.

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