ALAMO — The face of Molly Jane Roe, 24, of Bells, flashed across a video screen Thursday morning in a Crockett County General Sessions Court courtroom in Alamo, where she faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated rape of 17-month-old Maleeya Marie Avalon.
"I don't understand how anyone could even think about doing such a crime to a child," said Jessica Lidy, a friend of Avalon's parents, Phillip Murley and Crystal Gilbert.
She said it was very hard for them to be in the courtroom Thursday morning.
"They broke down crying," she said.
Lidy, 21, has known Phillip Murley for about five years and is friends with both parents. She said Murley and Gilbert had been in Nashville, where their child was flown to Vanderbilt Medical Center on June 7.
They returned Wednesday to hold a funeral service for their daughter at a Huntingdon funeral home, Lidy said.
"They're torn down," she said.
Roe was arrested June 9 and initially charged with aggravated child abuse, upgraded to first-degree murder and aggravated rape of a child after the toddler died.
On Thursday, she was appointed a public defender and is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. June 23 for a status check. She is being held without bond.
Lidy told a small group of reporters that with rumors floating around as to the incidents leading up to Maleeya Avalon's death, the parents just want to understand what happened to their child.
"They've got a lot of anger built up," she said.
Markita Mosier, 20, and two other women wore pink shirts with "RIP Maleeya" scribbled in purple and silver glitter paint Thursday. The sleeves were scrunched with purple ribbons as they stood outside the Crockett County General Sessions Court and made their way inside.
Mosier said the group of mothers wore the shirts out of support for the family and the baby.
"Anytime I even think about it I get upset," Mosier said.
She has a 1-year-old-daughter and said it is the community's job to protect their children from "crimes so awful."
Roe is accused of throwing the child and causing her to hit her head on a blunt object, causing severe brain injury, according to the affidavit. An examination also showed severe bruising to her vaginal area, her right hip and the left side of her abdomen, and a bite mark on her back.
Supporters of the Gilbert and Murley families said they could not understand the incident.
"I just don't see how anybody could do this to a child," Lidy said.