In an exclusive TODAY interview Friday, Rachel Robidoux said her daughter Jennifer Mee, the “Hiccup Girl” charged with first-degree murder for luring a man to his death, “doesn’t understand the severity of what’s going on right now.”
“Does she comprehend what she’s facing now, first-degree murder charges?” anchor Matt Lauer asked Robidoux.
“I don’t think so,” Robidoux replied. “She said the last time I saw her that she hopes she’s home for Christmas.”
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There is virtually no chance of that occurring. Despite a plea from Mee’s attorney and family, on Thursday a state judge ordered Mee’s continued detention without bail pending trial. “The family is saying now they can control her, when the evidence suggests they have been unable to do so to date,” Judge Donald Horrox said from the bench.
In October, Mee was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Shannon Griffin, a 22-year-old man she met on a social networking website that police have yet to publicly identify. Police say Mee lured Griffin, who believed he was going on a date, to a vacant home. Mee’s boyfriend and another alleged accomplice intended to rob Griffin, but things went awry and instead Griffin ended up dead, police said.
Mee, 19, of St. Petersburg, Fla., made national headlines in 2007 when the media dubbed her “Hiccup Girl” because of a five-week bout with hiccuping the doctors eventually linked to Tourette syndrome. The inherited disorder, usually seen in people under the age of 18, is characterized by uncontrollable tics.
Appearing with John Trevena, a criminal defense attorney representing Mee, Robidoux said her daughter was never the same after her hiccuping episode and media exposure in 2007. Although her hiccuping disappeared just as mysteriously as it began, Mee became withdrawn from the family and started living with friends and acquaintances at different locations, relocating every month or so, he mother said.
“Kind of running with the wrong crowd,” Robidoux told Lauer.
Trevena said the neuropsychiatric disorder that may be responsible for Mee’s hiccupping — which recurred in court during her bond hearing earlier this month — will almost definitely be a factor if the first-degree murder case against her goes to trial, though it won’t be offered as an excuse.
“I think it is going to be relevant. The extent — I cannot say now, it’s far too early,” Trevena said. “Certainly … it is a mitigating factor.”
Mee is not accused of shooting Griffin. Under Florida law, however, she could face life in prison if prosecutors can establish that Griffin was killed during the commission of a robbery and that Mee helped plan and execute it.Video: Victim was thrilled to date ‘Hiccup Girl’ (on this page)
Trevena said Friday that Mee will be evaluated extensively by experts — just in case prosecutors are not willing to acknowledge her limited role in Griffin’s death and do not offer a plea bargain she can live with.
“Just from what I’ve learned so far, Tourette’s is usually accompanied often with other mental health issues,” Trevena told Lauer.
In a statement Lauer read to Trevena, the medical advisory board of the National Tourette Syndrome Association took issue with any defense based on the disorder.Video: ‘Hiccup Girl’ charged with murder (on this page)
“In truth, the diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome in a legal offender is no more the reason for, or an excuse of such offense than other medical diagnoses — such as asthmas or rheumatism,” the association wrote. “Scientifically, there is no evidence of a causal relationship between having Tourette’s Syndrome and criminal behavior.”
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Trevena did not contest the group’s position. He said Tourette syndrome might be offered as a mitigating factor, not an affirmative defense.
“I think as to pure causality, that’s an accurate statement … Tourette’s, we believe in this case, not only explains the hiccups, but also explains some of her poor judgment,” the attorney said.Video: ‘Hiccup Girl’ finally gets rid of hiccups (on this page)
Rachel Robidoux said Mee exhibited other signs of developmental issues growing up. After the hiccuping episode of 2007, Mee’s judgment got worse; she became withdrawn and spent more and more time alone visiting social networking websites on the Internet, Robidoux said.
“She has no business being on there. She’s so naive,” Robidoux said. “It just escalated.”
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