At 02:30 the morning of August 16, 2008, a call was placed to 911. On the other end, Jennifer Davidson informed the 911 operator that her neighbor's house at 180 Signore Drive (Russellville, AL) was on fire. Two-and-a-half minutes later, a second call was made to 911 and Davidson informed the operator that there was a child in the house
When the firefighters arrived on the scene flames were shooting from the windows and the roof. They tried unsuccessfully to enter the house in order to save the child but were driven back by the intense heat and smoke. It took approximately 30 minutes to bring the fire under control. Six-year-old Mason Scott was eventually found on the floor of his bedroom.
After an investigation by state and local authorities, Christie Michelle Scott was indicted on three alternative counts of capital murder. Count I alleged that Scott murdered her child for pecuniary gain or other valuable consideration. Count II alleged that Scott murdered her child in the course of arson in the first degree. Count III alleged that Scott murdered a child under the age of 14. On October 26, Judge Terry Dempsey from the Franklin County Circuit Court issued a warrant for Scott's arrest.
In his opening statement on June 11, 2009 Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing outlined his case before the jury. He stated that the evidence would prove that Christie Michelle Scott intended to kill her six-year-old son and that her actions before, during and after the fire verified her intent.
Scott's attorney, Robert Tuten contended that Mason's death was a tragedy but not criminal. He claimed that the rumors circulating around the town had lead to an innocent woman being accused of killing her own son.
Mason Scott had just started the first grade at Russellville's West Elementary School almost two weeks before his tragic death. Witnesses testified that Christie Scott had been verbally and physically abusive to Mason on more than one occasion, included the morning of the fire where she was alleged to have yelled at Mason and pushed him. Mason had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. He was prescribed Abilify, Risperdal, and Vyvense. Mason was seen by Dr. Duane Carter and diagnosed with bronchitis. He prescribed Omniced, Decadron and a cough syrup containing codeine. Dr. Carter testified that the cough syrup would make a child sleepy.
Dr. Emily Ward, state medical examiner, performed the autopsy on six-year-old Mason. She testified that he was alive at least briefly while he was being burned. She found soot in his throat and lungs during the autopsy. Mason died of smoke inhalation and thermal burns and much of his skin was charred.
Dr. Jack R. Kalin, a toxicologist at the Department of Forensic Sciences, testified that he identified the following drugs in Mason's bloodstream; amphetamines, codeine, and promethazine - a medication used to treat nausea. The amphetamine level was high and that combined with the codeine and promethazine could have caused sleepiness and drowsiness.
Christie Scott testified that on the night before the fire she was watching TV and around 10:00 p.m. she went to check on Mason and his 4-year-old brother, Noah Riley. She stated that at that time Mason was asleep but Noah was not. She said that she told him to go to sleep and went back to watch TV. Christie testified that at 11:00 p.m. she turned the TV off and went to bed. She checked on the boys one last time and found that Noah was still awake. She told Noah to come and get in the bed with her. She went on to testify that the next thing she remembered was Noah hitting her in the face. She began to smell smoke and could feel heat on her face. She crawled over to the door of her bedroom and looked out into the hallway. She claimed that it was covered with smoke and could see flames coming from the laundry room. She closed the door to her bedroom, crawled back over to her bed to get Noah and the two of them escaped out of the window. She ran to her neighbor's house handed her Noah and told her to call 911. Christie testified that she ran back to the house and tried to get back in. She stated that she punched in the code several times to open the garage door because the other doors were locked but was unable to get the code to work. She testified that her hands were jerking and that's why she kept hitting the wrong buttons. She said that she gave the code to Brian and that when he tried the garage door still would not open. She claimed that her neighbor's boyfriend, Brian Copeland restrained her to keep her from going back into the house. Scott also testified that she gave Mason cough medicine the night before because he was coughing.
Jennifer Davidson testified that she stayed with Scott after calling 911 and when the police and firefighters arrived. She stated that when Scott was in the ambulance she did not want anyone to call Jeremy because she was afraid that he would either blame her or try to hurt himself. Jeremy was Christie Scott's husband. He was in Atlanta on a business trip. Davidson also testified that Scott was fully dressed and that she pulled a cell phone out of her pant pocket. She stated that Scott said that she had her cell phone the whole time and could have called 911.
Davidson's boyfriend, Brian Copeland testified that when Christie Scott came to their door the morning of the 16th, he ran to her house to try and get inside to rescue Mason. He said that Scott told him all the doors were locked and that there was no way into the house. He testified that he never saw her attempt to punch in the code to open the garage door and he denied having to restrain Scott in order to prevent her from trying to get back into the house.
Several officials at the scene testified that when Scott's father arrived he was visibly upset and asked Christie what the hell she had done to his grand babies.
Fire investigators determined that the fire started on Noah's bed but were unable to say exactly how the fire started. They also believe that the smoke detector in the hallway outside of the boys bedroom had been removed before the fire began. There was damage to the wires behind the detector that would not have occurred if it was in place.
Christie Scott obtained life-insurance policies on Mason and Noah prior to Mason's death. On May 6, 2008 Scott obtained a policy from Alfa Insurance in the amount of $50,000 and on June 14, 2008 she obtained a second policy from Alfa in the amount of $25,000 for each of the boys. On August 15, 2008, Scott obtained an additional an additional policy from Woodmen of the World Insurance Company in the amount of $100,000. Jeremy and Christie Scott were named as beneficiaries. After Mason's death Alfa Insurance paid out $25,000 to the Scotts. They refused to pay the remaining amount because Christie had omitted information about Mason's medical history on the application for the $50,000 policy. The claim for the $100,000 policy had yet to be filed. The Scott's homeowners policy was through Farmer's Insurance and after the fire they received $253,500.
Christie Scott was no stranger to fires. A witness testified that Scott had told him that she did not know how she could be so unlucky - to have had three house fires in two years and that God was punishing her for not wanting Mason.
Prior to living on Signore Drive, the Scotts had a house on Steel Frame Road. On January 12, 2006 there was a fire in the kitchen. It began when a pizza box was left on top of a hot burner. The fire was ruled an accident. On January 14, 2006 there was a second fire in their home. This one also started in the kitchen however this time the entire house was destroyed. Dwight Walden investigated the fire and believed that it was intentionally set. unfortunately it was not proven and the Scotts received an insurance payout totaling $185,000. Evidence showed that Christie Scott was the last one to leave the house before the fire, she had also increased the insurance coverage for the house three months before the fire and the smoke detector had been disconnected.
The state presented witnesses to testify to Christie Scott's behavior after the fire and prove that she was not the grieving mother. Anna Kay Greenhill, a hair stylist at Hello Gorgeous, testified that when Christie and Jeremy came in on the same day that Mason was killed they joked about how long Jeremy's hair had gotten. Heather McCalpin testified that on the day of Mason's funeral Christie was holding her daughter and said that Noah had always wanted a baby sister and that now maybe he would get one.
Upon hearing that his wife might have started the fire, Jeremy Scott separated from Christie for two weeks. He had also obtained a safety plan and a protection against abuse order based on the recommendation of the prosecutors and investigators. He later reversed his decision and testified on his wife's behalf. He claimed that after meeting with a defense investigator he had received false information about the fire from the police and fire investigators. He also stated that the only reason he had obtained the protection order was because the Department of Human Resources threatened to place Noah Scott in a foster home if he did not comply.
Christie Scott's father, Donald Bray, also testified on his daughter's behalf. He claimed that he never asked Scott what she had done but he did ask where his babies were.
On July 6, 2008, after four weeks of testimony, six men and six women met behind closed doors to determine the fate of Christie Michelle Scott.. Three days later the jury returned their verdict. They found her guilty of all three alternative counts of capital murder. At a vote of seven to five, the jury recommended that Scott be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Christie Scott and her family were allowed to address the court before Judge Terry Dempsey pronounced the sentence. Her husband, Jeremy Scott, and her father, Donald Bray, pleaded with the judge to spare Christie for the sake of her other son, Noah. Christie asked the judge to spare her life because she was innocent and believed that in time her innocence would be proven.
Their pleas failed to sway Judge Terry Dempsey. He said, "Justice must be served and the only way justice can be served in this case is by death." He went on to state, "Killing your own child for money by burning him alive is too much to over come...to intentionally murder your child by burning him is shockingly evil."
With this sentence, Christie Michelle Scott became the first woman to be sentenced to death in Franklin County. She is currently housed at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka on death row.