LARGO — The parents of Jennifer Ann Mee told a judge this week they would watch her 24/7 if the court would free the 19-year-old from jail while she awaits trial on first-degree murder.
The teen once known as "Hiccup Girl" has lived a tough life since her incurable hiccups brought her fame, they told the judge. Besides the Tourette's syndrome that causes her to hiccup uncontrollably, Mee is an emotionally stunted high school dropout, a chronic runaway who was nearly homeless before her arrest.
But Pinellas County Judge Donald E. Horrox told them Friday that those are the same reasons why he can't let their daughter out.
"The family is saying that now they can control her," the judge said, "when the evidence would suggest they have been unable to do so to this date."
He denied the defense's motion to set $50,000 bail for Mee. Instead, she'll stay in the Pinellas County Jail, held without bail, awaiting trial in the Oct. 23 murder of Shannon Griffin.
St. Petersburg police said Mee lured the victim out to be robbed by co-defendants Lamont Antonio Newton, 22, and Laron Cordale Raiford, 20. But Griffin, 22, resisted and was shot and killed.
Mee hiccuped and cried throughout Tuesday's hearing but was stoic and silent Friday. She was just 15 when her odd medical condition made her a minor celebrity in 2007. But her life deteriorated as she grew up.
Her family testified for the defense on Tuesday that Mee dropped out of the 10th grade, struggles to read and write, ran away from home, and was easily manipulated by the "wrong crowd." When she turned 18 she lived like a transient, according to mother Rachel Robidoux and stepfather Chris Robidoux, moving from motel to motel with abusive, manipulative boyfriends.
But the judge said that history is "a double-edged sword and arguably makes it more likely that she would flee."
Her medical and mental issues likely won't play a factor in her upcoming trial. But the judge noted that the defense could use Mee's travails to bargain for a lesser prison sentence.
"It seems to me the reasons advanced by the defense in arguing for bond are really factors that may be advanced to the state in plea negotiations," Horrox said, "or to a jury to mitigate her sentence if she is convicted."
It's rare for a bail to be set in a first-degree murder case. Defense attorney John Trevena said this week's motion was just the first step in a long legal fight.
"It was certainly not a surprise," he said of the judge's decision, "but worth taking a shot."
Doug Bolden, the older cousin who brought Griffin to Florida after Hurricane Katrina devastated the family farm in Mississippi, said he was relieved Mee will remain in jail.
"We're just happy with the results," Bolden said. "We know it's going to be a journey."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8472.