published Monday, November 19th, 2012

Tasha Bates returns to court today in heat deaths of her sons

  • photo
    Tasha Bates, who is charged in the deaths of her 3- and 5-year-old sons last year, leaves court in Bradley County earlier this year. Bates will be in court again today for motions in her ongoing criminal case.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

An attorney for the Cleveland, Tenn., mother charged with murder in the heat-related deaths of her two young boys says the public has yet to hear her side of the story.

"There is a lot of information that has not been publicly looked at. It's easy for people to just draw conclusions with the allegations they've heard," said Richard Hughes, the publicly appointed attorney for Tasha Bates.

Bates, 26, returns to Bradley County Criminal Court today in the deaths of her sons Leland, 3, and River, 5, who died of heat stroke June 28. Bates was arrested two weeks later and has been in jail for four months.

Investigators have claimed the boys died in a car outside Bates' house in rural Bradley County. She has also been charged with several methamphetamine-related offenses after investigators say they found drug-making materials in her home.

At today's hearing, attorneys could set a date for pretrial motions and possibly a trial date, Hughes said. But a homicide case as unusual and highly publicized as this one may not go to trial before next summer, he said.

Last month, the Bradley County medical examiner released final autopsy results showing the boys' core body temperatures had soared to at least 109 and 103 degrees, according to measurements taken after they were rushed to the hospital.

After the boys were found unconscious during that 101-degree afternoon, Bates told investigators that she had left them outside unattended on a Slip 'n' Slide water toy for 45 minutes.

Bradley County Assistant District Attorney Stephen Hatchett could not be reached for comment late last week, but has said in previous interviews that the meth found at Bates' house is a major factor in the case.

He has said Bates' actions showed "a level of neglect that's not there with an overworked mother who forgets her child."

Hughes said the last four months have been "very difficult" for Bates.

"She's lost her children, and now she is on trial for murder for it. She's fortunate that she's had a supportive family through it."

Bates' family has staunchly defended her against the allegations, saying she would never do anything to hurt the boys.

But Bates' ex-husband's family has questioned Bates' behavior and asked that justice be sought for the boys' sake.

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