A Tahlequah couple is being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder after a 3-year-old boy was found dead Tuesday morning at the Stepping Stone Rooming House.
Associate District Judge Mark Dobbins has bound over the child’s mother, Jeri Sanders, and a man said to be in a “common-law” relationship with her, Bufford Ellison.
Ellison was “incapacitated” and unable to appear before Dobbins in the courtroom Tuesday morning. He is reportedly in a wheelchair.
Sanders stood before Dobbins and appeared expressionless. Dobbins warned Sanders that she was in court for a probable cause hearing, and advised her to say nothing or otherwise risk having her words later used against her.
Tahlequah Police Detective Chris Boals told Dobbins he received a call Tuesday morning to check on an unresponsive 3-year-old boy. Boals said he observed bruising on the child’s head, chest and back.
Boals said he later interviewed Sanders, who admitted to being “stressed out” and unable to sleep because the child had been crying for several weeks, and she couldn’t figure out why.
She allegedly admitted she never tried to take the child to a doctor.
Sanders said that at some point Tuesday morning around 3, the toddler had been screaming, but eventually fell asleep. He awoke around 5:30 a.m. and started crying again, and Sanders said she tried to take care of the child until about 7:30, when she “had enough” and “couldn’t stand it anymore.”
Boals said Sanders admitted to handing the boy to Ellison and leaving the room. When she returned about 15 minutes later, Ellison was allegedly in a chair, and Sanders could see only parts of the boy’s body, which was described as being “face-first” behind Ellison.
Sanders told Boals she believed, “in the back of her mind,” that the boy was dead at that time, as she listened and could not hear him making noise. She nevertheless waited until about 9 a.m., took his “lifeless body,” carried it over to a baby sitter’s, then went back to her room and lay down.
Sanders allegedly told Boals she “just wanted some alone time.”
When Boals finished testifying, Dobbins told Sanders she would be held for first-degree murder without bond. He ruled the same way for Ellison, and ordered them back to court in December.