The mother of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in a house fire in August has been indicted on capital murder charges in Franklin County.
Christie Michelle Scott, 30, is accused of setting the fire that killed her son, Mason Scott, during the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 16.
Scott, 180 Signore Drive, Russellville, has been indicted on three alternative counts of capital murder, according to the Franklin County District Attorney's Office.
Her attempt to be released on bail was denied Monday afternoon in a hearing in Franklin Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey's courtroom, despite pleas from her husband and father.
During that hearing, it was revealed Scott had taken out additional insurance on Mason Scott the day before the fire, and that she has been connected with three previous house fires.
Scott, who appeared at the bond hearing in orange Franklin County Jail clothing, is expected to have an arraignment Oct. 28, courthouse officials said. After the bond hearing, she hugged family members in the courtroom, then walked toward a waiting jailer and held her wrists in front of her while crying. The jailer cuffed her and took her away.
Mason Scott was found lying on the floor near his bed shortly after firefighters brought the fire under control. He had started school at West Elementary School less than two weeks before.
Fire marshal investigators say the fire began in the child's room, but they have not listed its cause.
Christie Scott and her 4-year-old child, who was sleeping in the bed with her, were able to get out of the house. They reportedly went to a neighbor's house and called emergency operators.
The mother told police she tried to go back in the house to get the 6-year-old boy but was unable because of the intense heat caused by the fire.
Firefighters, who arrived to see flames pouring from windows and the roof, also tried unsuccessfully to get inside the house. It took about 30 minutes to bring the blaze under control. Medical experts said the boy suffered from deep thermal burns and smoke inhalation.
Scott's husband was out of town on a business trip at the time of the fire.
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing did not provide details Monday of any evidence linking Scott to the child's death and fire.
"We feel like we have sufficient proof, and that's what the indictment is based on," Rushing said.
He said forensic testing is continuing as investigators from four agencies continue to compile evidence.
"It's a very serious charge any time a mother is accused of doing anything harmful against her own child," Rushing said. "This case was thoroughly investigated by numerous agencies before any action was taken."
Scott, who has been staying in Haleyville since the fire, turned herself in at the Russellville Police Department just before 11 a.m. Monday. Her husband and parents were by her side as she walked into the back of the police department.
During the hearing, Rushing said he considers Scott a flight risk. He also believes she is a danger to herself and the public, based on the accusation that she would set fire to a house with a child inside.
Her defense attorney, Robert Tuten, disagreed, pointing out that Scott has been aware she's a target of the investigation since late August and has not fled.
Tuten called her father, Don Bray, and her husband, Jeremy Scott, to testify on Scott's behalf in an effort to have her freed on bail.
"Christie has always been a very good mother to the boys and took the very best care of them she could," Bray said.
During cross-examination by Rushing, Bray, an insurance agent, said Scott took out additional insurance on Mason Scott the day before the fire. Bray also said she had been involved in three other fires, including two at his home and one at hers, before the Aug. 16 fire.
Jeremy Scott said he was there on his wife's behalf because "she didn't do it."
Tuten asked about his wife's relationship with her children. "They were very, very close," her husband said. "She was very concerned with everything that was going on."
During cross-examination, Jeremy Scott said he separated from his wife for a couple of weeks after the fire, because of things he'd heard from investigators.
He said he sought a protection-from-abuse order against her on behalf of him and their other son, on Rushing's recommendation.
Jeremy Scott said he decided to believe Christie Scott and come back to her after talking with her family and Tuten.
Greg Reynolds, a former pastor of Christie Scott's, testified that she is not a flight risk, and described her as a loving mother. Christie Scott could be convicted of any or all of the three counts.
A person convicted of capital murder faces a sentence of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Capital murder charges can be filed when a person is accused of killing someone while also committing another felony. Capital murder can also involve a particular heinous act of killing someone. One example involves the age of the victim.
The three alternative counts would give jurors options should they consider Scott guilty during the trial.
The first count accuses Scott of intentionally killing her son by starting a fire for the purpose of monetary gain. Rushing declined to go into detail about that charge, although he did ask about the insurance policy during the hearing.
Count two accuses Scott of intentionally killing her son as a result of committing first-degree arson, which also is a Class A felony.
The third count accuses Scott of intentionally killing someone who is less than 14 years old.
Fire marshal investigators have ruled that the fire was intentionally set. Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said the case originally began as a fire investigation involving a death.
"Several things led to her becoming a suspect," Hargett said, declining to elaborate. "Early on, things seemed suspicious and just weren't adding up. As we took more statements, it seemed to point in one direction."
He said this case has been hard on the community. "It's just a sad situation, anyway you look at it," Hargett said. "Whether it's an accident or intentional, it doesn't make it any better. I just hope this can bring some closure for the community."
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.