Spring Hill foster mom gets 16 years for abuse

FRANKLIN — Shelley Blair will serve a total of 16 years for starving, binding with duct tape and imprisoning two children in her Spring Hill home.

Before reading her sentence, Judge Robbie Beal told Blair that in jail, “comparatively, you will be held in the very lap of luxury as to what you provided for those kids.”

Blair pleaded guilty in October to four felony counts: two of aggravated assault and one each of attempted especially aggravated kidnapping and kidnapping.

Spring Hill Police found the boy, then 12, and girl, 13, on Main Street running away from home on Oct. 20, 2008.

Police detective Geoff Betts displayed a piece of wallboard from the basement room to illustrate how small of a hole the malnourished boy was able to fit through and the desperation of his escape.

The children were extremely malnourished: The girl weighed 55 pounds and the boy 61 pounds. In executing a search warrant, police found that the children had been locked in separate, empty rooms and forced to use a bucket as a toilet.

The girl, now 16, testified that Blair would restrain them with duct tape. She said Blair would leave them with sandwiches or oatmeal and a bottle of water.

Blair admits she treated the children badly but said she was overwhelmed by their behavioral problems, violence and sexual behavior.

At one point, Blair sent the girl, her adopted daughter, to a treatment facility in Iowa. She took the boy in as a foster child through a private arrangement before the girl was kicked out of the treatment facility.

Beal said Blair was entrusted with providing these children refuge and failed to get the help she needed before resorting to the “exceptional cruelty” she employed.

Working against Blair was a 2003 conviction for child abuse involving the same adopted girl. Beal said Blair was in duress of her own making by not seeking the proper help.

“You simply didn’t learn your lesson,” he said.

Contact Jill Cecil Wiersma at 615-790-7207, jwiersma@tennessean.com or on Twitter @Jill_WAM.