A Payson woman who launched a crime wave of her own is now heading for prison to serve a nine-year sentence.
Michelle Tina Petitte, 29, pleaded guilty to nine felonies committed between October 2012 and September 2013. The charges included burglaries, assaults, child abuse and repeated efforts to escape from police.
Judge Gary Scales sentenced her to nine years in prison, plus three years on probation once she gets out under the terms of the plea deal with prosecutors.
The terse narrative of her crimes in a release by the Gila County Attorney’s Office depicted a life of careening violence and dysfunction, with two young children at home in apparently violent and filthy conditions.
The charges stemmed from at least six different incidents, most of them with overtones of drug and alcohol abuse.
The Roundup has not reviewed the police reports that documented the slew of incidents and wasn’t able to interview prosecutors about the case prior to press time. It’s therefore unclear why Petitte remained on the loose repeatedly committing fresh crimes for nearly a year after she attacked a Gisela woman with a baseball bat.
The account of her crimes and guilty pleas also doesn’t detail what became of her two children.
She was arrested for assaulting one woman with a baseball bat and another woman with a hammer and then with striking her 11-year-old son with a beer bottle in three different incidents in a six-month period between Oct. 13, 2012 and March 7, 2013.
Nonetheless, she apparently still had custody of her children three months later when Tonto Apache Police Officers found them alone in a filthy house.
The case echoes the tragic death of Calandra Balas, who died in a rollover accident as her father fled from police. More than a year before her death, Calandra’s father, Gasoa Balas, brutally assaulted his girlfriend. Prosecutors at the time didn’t charge him in the assault when the victim refused to cooperate and the girl remained in her father’s custody, although relatives said CPS had received other reports of abuse and neglect.
After the girl’s death, then-Deputy County Attorney Shawn Fuller reviewed the decision made a year earlier by the former prosecutor’s office and filed charges for the assault. A jury convicted Balas in that assault and he later pleaded guilty to charges arising from the death of his daughter.
The Roundup filed a freedom of information request for the records in that case four months ago, but Child Protective Services provided only a heavily redacted account, which included nine previous reports that in some way involved the girl. CPS blacked out all the details of those earlier reports. The Roundup has requested the withheld details.
Child Protective Services has much stricter confidentiality requirements than the police. Most details only come out if a child actually dies.
Nonetheless, the Petitte case once again illuminates the failure of the system to intervene on behalf of abused and neglected children, even when parents have an extensive and ongoing criminal history.
The chronicle of crimes in the Petitte case reveals the devastation that can ensue even when police make repeated arrests in a short period of time.
The release detailed the following incidents:
Oct. 13, 2012
A Gisela woman reported to Gila County Sheriff deputies that Petitte beat her with a baseball bat.
The woman said Petitte showed up seeking money, smashed the windshield of her car with a baseball bat, then attacked the woman herself. The woman’s teenage son and her own bloody injuries validated the woman’s account. Petitte pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated assault in that incident.
Feb. 16, 2013
Petitte and a man allegedly forced their way into a Star Valley woman’s home and demanded to know where to find her husband. She said she didn’t know. Petitte then attacked the woman with a hammer. The pair then stole some electronics and fled. Petitte pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in that case.
March 7, 2013
Pettite’s mother called sheriff’s deputies to report that her daughter was drunk and disorderly at her home. Deputies arrived and found Petitte drunk. They interviewed Petitte’s son, who said his mother had hit him with a thrown beer bottle. Petitte pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on a child in that case.
June 8: 2013
After a Tonto Apache Police officer stopped Petitte near the casino, she fled at high speed, veering off the road and losing control on corners. The officer lost her in the chase. She later pleaded guilty to unlawful flight.
June 8, 2013
Tonto Apache Police officers attempting to find Petitte went to her home where they found her 11-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter in a filthy house full of garbage, spoiled food, rotting meat and empty liquor bottles. Police called in Child Protective Service investigators. The children said they hadn’t seen their mother in days and were very hungry. Petitte pleaded guilty to child abuse and endangerment in that case.
Aug. 23, 2013
Responding to neighbors’ calls, Payson Police officers arrived at Petitte’s home and interrupted a fight with her husband. An officer handcuffed her, but she somehow slipped out of the handcuffs and tried to flee. Petitte pleaded guilty to escape charges in that case.
Sept. 15, 2013
The investigation of the theft of drugs from QOL Pharmacy in Payson led police to a suspect they found at Petitte’s home in Payson. When police tried to take her into custody, she again attempted to escape. Later, she admitted she had stolen drugs from the pharmacy. She pleaded guilty to escape and burglary.