DETROIT, MI — The gruesome details of torment inflicted on two children were revealed in a Detroit courtroom Thursday.
For years, they were sadistically burned, beaten, starved and held prisoner by their mother, 36-year-old Mitchelle Blair, investigators say.
Those two children were 13-year-old Stoni A. Blair and her 9-year-old half-brother, Stephen Gage Berry.
The children’s bodies were stored in the family’s Deep freezer, Stephen’s since August 2012 and his sister’s since the following May.
A Wayne County sheriff’s deputy discovered them while evicting Blair and her two surviving children, an 8-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl, from their Detroit apartment March 24.
The state is currently seeking to terminate the parental rights of Blair and the fathers of the surviving children.
Alexander J. Dorsey is the 35-year-old father of Stoni and the surviving 17-year-old girl. Steven Berry, 31, of Redford, is the father of Stephen and the surviving 8-year-old boy.
Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt took the stand in the custody trial Friday and shared his findings of heinous abuse that he says occurred over a “period of time.”
It took two days for the bodies to thaw, then he began the autopsies.
Schmidt found long-healed scars and a multitude of intentional burns, many apparently from cigarettes, on both children’s bodies.
Katrina Hayden, a social worker with Child Protective Services, in testimony revealed her agency investigated Blair in 2002 after receiving an abuse complaint stemming from burns seen on the hands of both Blair’s daughters. What happened after CPS confirmed the abuse is unclear. Hayden says the file was destroyed.
CPS investigated and confirmed another report of abuse in 2005 after Dorsey’s sister, while bathing the girls, found numerous scars on their backs. Hayden says Blair received “services” following investigation, but a petition was never filed to remove custody.
The medical examiner found that Stoni’s arm was fractured at some point in her life. She never received medical attention. Schmidt spoke of the extreme pain the girl must have endured while it healed without a cast and the broken bone ground against itself.
Stoni had “freshly carved-out tissue” on her right shoulder, possibly caused by a caustic substance being poured on a wound.
“Both of (Stoni’s) ears had extensive loss of tissue,” Schmidt said. “And I don’t know quite what might have caused that, but it almost looks like they were chewed off.
“… Wherever you looked there was either a scar, an ulceration, a burn or a blow.”
Both children, based on scarring on the inside of their mouths, had been slapped and punched numerous times. They had chipped teeth and “both were severely malnourished,” said Schmidt.
Stoni starved so long that her ribs showed through her skin, her body began consuming itself for energy. She had only 5 millimeters of fat padding her stomach, Schmidt said.
Stoni’s body was delivered to the coroner’s office naked, except for a black scarf around her neck. Initially, Schmidt believes the scarf was used to protect the burns and open wounds on her neck.
Schmidt said a series of blows to the head killed both children. He didn’t know how many. There were so many scars and wounds on the scalp that “they actually started to blend into each other,” he said.
Burns also contributed to Stephen’s death.
Though both had a myriad of burn scarring, those left on Stephen were distinct, patterned in parallel rows above his stomach, on his back and buttocks.
“The most striking burn was in the genital region,” Schmidt said. There were second- and third-degree burns around his genitals and anus.
Both father’s say they didn’t know how significant the abuse was and believed their children were happy and healthy.
Dorsey’s daughter will turn 18 in July. He expects they’ll continue to have a relationship, even if he loses parental rights in the meantime.
Dorsey has been unemployed for years and lives in Detroit with his mother, who supports him and paid for the suit he wore when he took the stand Thursday.
Berry, also unemployed for years, lives with seven others in a three-bedroom house in Redford. Berry admitted in court Friday his current home isn’t a fit environment for his surviving 8-year-old son, and he can’t financially support him, but he still wants guardian rights.
Blair listened to the Friday’s nightmarish testimony without any sign of remorse.
She’s been forcibly removed from the courtroom multiple times for outbursts, mostly rage directed at the fathers, who she says were never there for their kids.
“And if everybody got to know, yes, I did kill her,” Blair shouted in a fit of rage while being removed from the courtroom Thursday.
She called the killing of Stephen “unintentional.”
The custody trial will resume Thursday morning.