A Tennessee couple accused of murdering two of their adopted children and keeping a third locked in their basement for four years pled not guilty yesterday to a 42-count indictment.
Authorities began investigating Michael and Shirley Gray, aged 63 and 60, in late May after one of the couple’s adopted children was found walking alone on the side of the road, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Authorities took the boy home and called child services.
Shortly after that, Michael allegedly confessed to Roane County Sheriff's Office investigators he had a 15-year-old boy locked in his basement and the remains of another child buried in his backyard, the News Sentinel reports
While searching the home, authorities discovered appalling conditions.
The 15-year-old — one of the Grays’ five adopted children – was indeed locked in their filthy, partially flooded basement with no electricity or running water, local news station WBIR-TV reports. He’d allegedly been kept there for years as a punishment for stealing food.
At one point, his 11-year-old sister allegedly joined him there before starving to death. Authorities found the girl’s skeletal remains buried alongside livestock in the barn out back, according to a separate WBIR report.
Investigators also discovered the remains of another of the Grays’ adopted children behind a house the couple previously shared with their adult biological son, according to the station.
Despite two of their adopted children being dead, the Grays allegedly continued to collect $3,000 a month through the Department of Child Services Adoption Assistance program, WBIR reported in June.
All of the Grays’ surviving adopted children showed signs of abuse. They appeared “stunted in growth,” and two of them recalled being locked in a wire dog cage, according to arrest warrants acquired by the News Sentinel. None of them had seen a doctor in at least six years.
All the Gray children were supposedly homeschooled. However, two of them “appear to have no formal education, and were, in fact, amazed by what a refrigerator does when they observed one in their foster home,” according to the warrants.
Michael and Shirley Gray were arrested, and on Oct. 20 each was indicted on 42 counts, according to court documents acquired by Oxygen.com.
Each has been charged with four counts of felony murder, eight counts of aggravated child abuse, eight counts of aggravated child neglect, five counts of falsification of academic records, one count of abusing a corpse, and one count of theft. They also face nine counts of aggravated kidnapping and six counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, according to the documents.
If convicted of any of their felony murder charges, the Grays will be eligible for the death penalty. They are each being held on $1.5 million bail.
The couple pled not guilty on all counts yesterday. They are scheduled to appear in court again on Dec. 18, according to online court records.
Michael Gray’s attorney declined a request to comment on this story.
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