Grand Traverse Child Abuse Mistrial

October 7, 2015 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

Mistrial declared in Child Abuse Case

Rachel Sublett woke at 7:30 in the morning to the sound of her little son screaming. She found his little face bloody and battered. Terrified, she tried to clean away the blood, hoping to find the wound and discover what had happened to her 21-month-old son. But as she wiped the blood, the unthinkable happened – the skin began to peel away from his face. Horrified, Sublett rushed him to Munson Medical Center.

According to Doctor N.D. Simms of the DeVos Children’s Hospital, where the little boy was finally taken, the burns and wounds are consistent with the inside of a dryer. Apparently, for reasons that no one is yet certain of, someone put this little boy in a clothes dryer and turned it on.  According to the police, it was the mother’s boyfriend, Dustin Boyd Holdaway. But according to Holdaway, it could be none other than Sublett herself.

Court records show that Sublett says she put her son down without any problems the night before, where they were staying at Holdaway’s home for the night. But she awoke in the morning to the child’s screams. She did not, however, see what happened, but she did tell police that Holdaway had joked with her in the past about putting her son in the dryer.

Holdaway was arrested by the Michigan State Police, and charged with two counts of first degree child abuse, and a single count of torture.  Under Michigan law, both first degree child abuse and torture are felonies punishable by up to life in prison. If convicted, Holdaway would likely have been incarcerated for the remainder of his life.

During trial, Holdaway testified that he had nothing to do with what happened to the little boy, but that he has no answer for what might have occurred. He did also say that during the night, Sublett had gotten up, leaving the room where they were sleeping. Apparently, he thought she was sleepwalking.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor, Noelle Moeggenberg asked him if he assumed that Sublett took her son downstairs to the laundry room, stripped him, put him into the dryer, and turned it on. Holdaway’s answer was that, yes, he did think so. When asked why he hadn’t reported this to the police during the investigation, he said that he loved her and hadn’t wanted to assume the worst.

The dryer in question was brought into the courtroom for the closing arguments.

Holdaway’s defense attorney, claimed that Sublett involuntarily hurt her own child and Holdaway is being blamed. But Moeggenberg, the prosecutor, claimed that this is a lie aimed at redirecting the blame. There is no evidence, she says, that Sublett had ever sleepwalked except for Holdaway’s claim.

The jury deliberated for hours but was unable to reach a consensus by the end of the day. They reconvened the following morning and spent hours going back and forth on the issue. But they were hung, completely unable to agree on whether or not Holdaway was innocent, or guilty. The judge declared a mistrial and Holdaway was released. According to the Prosecutor’s office, they will be reconvening in a month to address the issue of pursuing another trial in the future.