By Shelby R. King

The Bulletin

A Redmond woman facing 87 felony counts for allegedly abusing her stepdaughter will stay in jail while she awaits trial, despite her attorney’s request that she be released to her mother.

Michelle Saunders, 42, was booked into the Deschutes County jail March 21 after being extradited from Nevada. She was arraigned March 24 on 58 counts of first-degree criminal mischief, 10 counts of felony strangulation, seven counts of felony fourth-degree assault, six counts of unlawful use of a weapon, six counts of second-degree assault and two misdemeanor strangulation charges.

She is being held at the jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Court records indicate the alleged crimes occurred between 2009 and 2013. Saunders appeared in Deschutes Circuit Court on Wednesday with her attorney, Jacques DeKalb, to request a third-party release so that she can care for her son.

“He is high-functioning autistic and this has caused a huge stress,” Saunders said to Judge Barbara Haslinger. “He is going into hallucination mode.”

DeKalb explained to the court that Saunders’ son, who lives locally, has been hallucinating severely enough that he was admitted to a local hospital and is going to be transferred to a hospital in Portland.

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Evander McIver “very, very strongly” objected to Saunders’ release.

“There are 89 counts of extreme abuse of a child,” he said. “Her mother is not an appropriate candidate for her release.”

DeKalb said in court the alleged victim is Saunders’ stepchild, not the son she’s requesting release to care for.

McIver said Saunders’ brother and the alleged victim were in court to testify against her release. He also said Saunders’ mother lives in an apartment complex that would serve her with a 72-hour eviction notice if she were to have Saunders stay with her.

The state’s witnesses did not need to testify against Saunders’ release for Haslinger to make her decision. Haslinger pointed out that because Saunders had to be extradited from Nevada to face these charges, it does not appear she is the boy’s primary caregiver.

“I don’t find there is a basic reason to modify the release agreement,” Haslinger said. “She is innocent until proven guilty, but because of the nature of the allegations, and the fact of the extradition, I’m going to leave the security at $100,000.”

Saunders is scheduled to enter a plea on the charges at 10:30 a.m. May 22. She does not have prior convictions for violent crimes in Oregon, according to the Oregon Judicial Department.

— Reporter: 541-383-0376,