Mother of abused child remains in jail on $250,000 bond

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By Susan Sharp


Last week, Joseph Smith faced a judge accused of severely abusing Peyton Douglas.

On Tuesday, Michelle Ann Mae Douglas, Peyton’s mother, appeared in court under the same cloud of suspicion.

But she didn’t opt for General Sessions Judge Joe Ayers to weigh the evidence in her case. Instead 23-year-old Douglas waived her preliminary hearing sending her case straight to the grand jury. However she did have one request.

“We are asking for a bail reduction,” said her court appointed attorney David Pollard. Douglas’ bond was set at $250,000 when she was brought back from Clarksville last week.

Noting the case had moved rapidly, Pollard said this left little time for anyone to be called as a witness for Douglas’ character. “The court knows I was appointed to this yesterday,” he said. Ayers, interjecting for the sake of the record, said Douglas was transferred from middle Tennessee on Friday.

Beginning his argument for the reduction, Pollard said his client faced the same charge in Clarksville she faced in Campbell County- aggravated child abuse and neglect. What began there as $500,000 was eventually lowered to $15,000, he said.

“It was the same charge under the same facts,” Pollard argued. He then asked the judge to take note that bond was meant to be a means of ensuring a defendant appeared for trial, not to punish them. The law “assumes a presumption of innocence,” Pollard contended.

“The state disputes the charges are the same,” Assistant District Attorney Scarlet Ellis said opening her remarks to Ayers.

Douglas left Campbell County with Peyton, who was severely injured, and didn’t seek medical care for him, Ellis continued. That meant she had fled the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.

Douglas told police leaving the county was an attempt to hide Peyton’s numerous burns, bruises and a broken arm from family members, her arrest warrant said. She described where and how the toddler was injured, as well as stopping on the road to Clarksville attempting “to conceal some of the injuries on this baby,” Ellis recounted from Douglas’ statement.

Ellis didn’t commiserate with Douglas because she lacked witness on her behalf for the hearing. “This (the hearing) is at the request of the defendant,” Ellis said.

Given that Douglas is facing a top level felony that if convicted on would require her to serve 100- percent of her sentence, Ellis said that should weigh into the bond issue.

Citing the rules for criminal cases, Ellis said the court should also consider the charge Douglas was facing as well as the likelihood of her conviction. To shore up her case, Ellis introduced the pictures of Peyton’s multiple injuries, along with a diagram detailing his wounds and a written statement from his physician at Vanderbilt Hospital.  

“We object to all of that. The state is seeking a mini-trial,” Pollard asserted.

After Ellis deemed Douglas’ bond “reasonable” Pollard countered her.

Urging Ayers to use the state guidelines and “common sense” he then brought another pending criminal case into his rationale for the reduction.

“The biological father of this child (Peyton) is walking around on bond on a second degree murder charge,” Pollard told Ayers.

Ellis quickly said the two cases were not connected.

After adding Douglas’ statement amounted to a “jail house interrogation,” Pollard asked if it had weight at this point in the case.

“The nature of the offense is very serious,” Ayers said. Noting Douglas’ previous departure from the county when Peyton was injured, Ayers said that did raise “the issue of flight.”

He allowed her bail to remain at $250,000.

Last week, Ayers left the bond of her co-defendant, Joseph Smith at $250,000 as well.

The pair is accused of harming Douglas’ son, Peyton, in numerous ways in a Caryville home five months ago. At that time, the child was 17 months old.

At Smith’s preliminary hearing last week sheriff’s department Detective Jamie Hall testified Peyton was “bruised from head to toe” with scores of cigarette burns.

He is currently living with a foster family but having extended visits with his maternal grandmother, who intends to seek custody.

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