ROANE COUNTY, TENNESSEE: The couple who was indicted on 42 counts of abusing and torturing their adopted children, including killing a girl aged between 10 to 13 years old, whose skeleton was found on their property in 2017, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Michael Anthony Gray, Sr., 63, and Shirley Gray, 60, denied the accusations against them during their appearance in court on Monday, October 26, for their arraignments in Roane County, Tennessee over the charges relating to the abuse of four of their non-biological children. They were also given a theft charge for failing to report the girl’s death and continuing to receive state benefits. They will be returning to court in December.
We reported earlier that authorities launched an investigation into the couple on May 22, 2020, when officials with the Roane County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report stating someone had dropped off a boy who said that he had no clue where his parents were or where he was. After determining the 10-year-old boy’s name, deputies took the child to his home and contacted the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS).
Michael and Shirly Gray said that they were not aware of the fact that the child had left home, which made the officers suspicious. They took the child to the DCS office, where the child confessed to the fact that there was a 15-year-old trapped in the basement while the corpse of another child was buried in the backyard. With the new information, the couple was questioned again and the second time, they admitted that the daughter, around 11 years old, died in 2017 after she was locked in the basement and was buried. Michael also admitted that their teenage son was kept confined in the basement for 4 years.
The police rescued the boy who was found living amid human and animal waste and without any source of running water. He had been cut away from the outside world since 2016 after stealing fruit from the pantry and fridge. He was the eldest among the couple’s four children and was given small amounts of food including bread and water by the couple during his confinement. Two other children were also confined for different time periods in a wired dog cage and appeared to be “stunted in growth,” according to the warrants. It is alleged that the youngest daughter was confined in the basement for several weeks, as a punishment for stealing food before she died. All were supposedly homeschooled.
According to the search warrant, investigators found the remains of the couple’s another son Jonathan Gray in Knox County. It is believed that he probably died in 2015 or 2016. The investigation into his death is ongoing and the couple has not been charged in relation to it.
In May, Department of Children’s Services commissioner Jennifer Nichols released a statement in relation to the matter. “Words are inadequate. Cruelty such as this makes us question all that we know to be true,” she said. “I am so grateful to the passersby who saw a child in a situation that just didn’t seem right and stopped to help. That one small action led to the discovery of children who were victims of severe abuse and neglect. Those children are now in a safe place and being cared for and their parents face significant criminal charges. I am also thankful for our DCS child protective services staff who worked together as a team, followed their instincts to dig a little further when first notified of the situation and immediately alerted law enforcement. State privacy protection laws prohibit me from providing specific details of this open case, but rest assured, we will continue to work with law enforcement and the district attorney as they continue the criminal investigation and justice is served.”