A Roane County couple each face multiple crimes after skeletal remains believed to be those of their daughter were discovered buried in their backyard.
Officers say 63-year-old Michael Anthony Gray, Sr. and his wife, 60-year-old Shirley Ann Gray, were arrested Monday. Each face two counts of aggravated child abuse, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping (holding minors against their will), three counts of aggravated child neglect and one count of abuse of a corpse.
The couple made their first appearance this afternoon in Roane County General Sessions Court.
The judge heard details of the charges based on the warrants filed against the couple.
Those alleged details are disturbing.
105.7 News obtained the lengthy warrants and here is what was revealed:
The investigation started Friday, May 22, 2020 when deputies with the Roane County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call stating a 10-year-old boy was found close to the Grays home on the 1200 block of Dryfork Valley Road in the Ten Mile community. The child said he didn’t know where his parents were or where he was. Deputies learned where the boy lived then took the child home and contacted the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS).
It was at the DCS office in Kingston that the minor made two shocking claims.
He told investigators his 15-year-old brother was locked in a basement and a deceased child was buried in the backyard.
Detectives went to the residence and spoke with Michael Anthony Gray, Sr. who allegedly admitted that his daughter died in 2017 and he buried her in the backyard. Gray Sr. also reportedly admitted that his 15-year-old son was in the basement. Authorities rescued the child from the basement.
The Grays purchased the home at 1275 Dryfork Valley Road in June 2016. The two moved into the home with their 4 children, a 10-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl.
Investigators say the 15-year-old boy was locked by the Grays in the basement for stealing fruit from the pantry a month after they moved in. Authorities say he had no contact with anyone outside of the basement until he was discovered by officers last Friday (May 22, 2020). Officers stated the 15-year-old male was given small amounts of food from time to time including white bread and water while in the basement.
The warrants state the Grays withheld food from all the children at times as a means of punishment.
In early 2017, officials said the 13-year-old daughter, who eventually died, was also confined to the unfinished basement as a punishment for stealing food. Within a few months, she passed away. During the search of the home, Michael Anthony Gray, Sr. showed investigators where she died. He reportedly kept the girl’s body in a cardboard box before she was buried in an area in and around farm animals. An excavation revealed her human remains early Saturday morning.
During the search of the home, authorities said Michael Anthony Gray, Sr. revealed a small concrete room built under the stairs where two of the children had been kept for punishment. The 2.9’ by 3.8’ room had no running water and no electricity. The warrants stated a bucket inside the small room was filled with human feces and urine and magazine pages nearby used for wiping. Prior to the small room being built, some of the children were kept in the unfinished basement locked up as punishment.
The warrants say the house was filled with a urine smell, human and animal feces throughout the home, on the walls and a bed. Officers say part of the basement was flooded with old trash scattered throughout, with no running water and exposed wires.
The children’s parents admitted that the children had not received medical or dental attention for at least “six years” prior to the investigation.
All children were signed up for homeschooling. An individual completed the required paperwork stating that all children were meeting all their home school assessments, despite the fact that one child was deceased and others were locked in the basement.
Officials said all the children appeared to be stunted in growth and no formal education.
The warrants state the surviving children were in fact amazed of what a refrigerator does when they observed one after taken to a temporary foster home.
In court this afternoon, an attorney requested the judge to consider no bond giving the serious nature of the charges and the fact that Michael Gray, Sr. previously lived at more than twenty residences. He is originally from out of state.
The judge set a half million dollar bond each for Michael Anthony Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray.
Their next court appearance is scheduled for June 9, 2020.
The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are expected to be filed against the two.
District Attorney General Russell Johnson said they are awaiting an autopsy on the daughter’s remains.