The McMinn County woman facing 18 counts of aggravated statutory rape involving at least nine minor boys was in court Monday for her first court appearance since her arrest on an indictment issued Feb. 15 and release on $100,000 bond.
Melissa Ann Blair, 38, of Englewood, Tennessee - also charged with four counts of human trafficking by patronizing prostitution and one count of solicitation of a minor - waived a formal arraignment Monday in McMinn County Circuit Criminal Court, where she received instructions to avoid being on school property, according to court documents.
Blair was represented by Knoxville attorney Robert R. Kurtz, who declined to comment when contacted Tuesday by phone.
Aggravated statutory rape - a class D felony, the most serious of the counts against her - carries a sentence upon conviction of two to 12 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine, according to state law.
According to a new order issued Monday by Criminal Court Judge Andrew Mark Freiberg, Blair will be allowed to pick up and drop off her children from their schools but she is to remain in her car.
Blair "is further prohibited from attending any school function or athletic event, specifically, she is prohibited from the premises of the Etowah Community Ball Field," the order states. Orders barring Blair from having any contact with the alleged victims and orders otherwise barring her from being on school property remain in place.
Blair's next court appearance is set for May 9 for a plea or assignment of a trial date, records show.
Blair turned herself in on the charges the same day the indictment was issued, records show.
The nine alleged victims, all boys, attended McMinn Central High School when the alleged incidents happened, McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said after Blair's arrest Feb. 15. The investigation started in December after authorities received a referral from the Department of Children's Services. Seven of the boys are still under age 18, while two others are now adults, Guy said in an email in mid-February. Blair's only connection to local schools is as a parent of students, Guy said at the beginning of the probe.
Court records allege the youngest of the boys was 14 and two others were 15 when the incidents occurred. The remaining boys were 16 or 17. Court records do not contain specific case details.
"There may possibly be other victims who are now adults, and we also encourage them to contact us. It appears that Ms. Blair was communicating with the juveniles on social media, arranging meetings with them and trading items for sexual encounters with them," McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said in a Feb. 15 news release.
Guy said Tuesday by phone he couldn't discuss what kinds of items were traded or whether any new victims have come forward because those details are part of case evidence and could involve potential cases not yet in court.
"This case has encouraged many brave victims to have the courage to come forward including those who are recent victims or who are in incidents that occurred when they were children," Guy said in a video he posted on social media calling for anyone who feels they are a victim in the Blair case to contact authorities.
The sheriff urged anyone who wants to report sexual abuse related to the current case or any other case or situation involving sexual abuse to call the McMinn County Sheriff's Office at 423-745-3222, Tennessee Department of Children's Services at 877-237-0004, the HOPE Center Hotline at 423-745-5289 or the 10th Judicial District Attorney General's Office at 423-744-2830.