East Tenn. couple accused of child abuse, murder appear in court

Court documents stated, Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray “did unlawfully kill Jonathan Dalton Gray,” during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect and aggravated child abuse.
Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 11:01 AM EST|Updated: Jun. 3, 2022 at 11:25 AM EDT
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Gray Family Appears In Court

East Tenn. family appear in court after child’s body found buried at Halls home. https://bit.ly/3M9ECDH

Posted by WVLT on Friday, June 3, 2022

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - An East Tennessee couple who were indicted on murder and kidnapping charges after a child’s body was found buried at Roane Co. home appeared in court Friday morning.

Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray both pleaded not guilty on all charges.

An investigation into the couple began May 22, 2020 when the Roane County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call stating someone dropped off a boy who said he didn’t know where his parents were or where he was.

Deputies then took the child to his home and contacted the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Roane County officials said the parents, Michael Anthony and Shirley, were not aware the child had left the home. The child was taken to the DCS office in Kingston where he told investigators there was another child, around 15-years-old, in the basement, and another deceased child buried in the backyard. Investigators said Michael Gray admitted that his 11-year-old daughter died in 2017 and was buried in the backyard. Officials said she was confined to the basement as punishment for stealing food and within months, passed away. According to court documents, the abuse occurred from June 2016 to May 2020. The indictments in the case involving the 11-year-old are not connected to the case the couple is set to be arraigned on Thursday.

Shortly after the girl’s remains were discovered, the remains of another child were discovered at a property in Knox County linked to the Grays. At the time of the body’s discovery, the home belonged to the Grays' son, Michael Anthony Jr., whom investigators believe knew about the abuse the children faced. According to the release, there is still an ongoing investigation by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Court documents stated, Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray “did unlawfully kill Jonathan Dalton Gray,” during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect and aggravated child abuse.

Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray are accused of treating the child, “in a manner that was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel or involved the infliction of torture to the victim.”

According to court documents, Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray "did knowingly and other than by accidental means, treat Jonathan Dalton Gray, a child eight (8) years of age or less, in a manner that did result in serious bodily injury.

The couple is also accused of concealing “the facts of the crime in that the body of Jonathan Dalton Gray was not discovered until May 23, 2020.”

The charges against Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray include the, “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel” treatment and “infliction of torture” on three other children.

Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray are also accused of willfully providing a “false statement, representation, or impersonation” regarding medical assistance benefits. According to court records, Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray allegedly unlawfully obtained medical assistance benefits by means of deception, fraud, and/or coercion over the value of $500 and obtained adoption benefits of at least $10,000.

Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray both pleaded not guilty on all charges, including murder and kidnapping charges. The two are set to appear in court again on Dec. 18.

The senior Grays allegedly confined their young daughter to a basement for months and fed her nothing but bread and water before she died. The child was found buried near a pole barn on the property, according to officials.

Michael Anthony Gray and Shirley Gray bought the home on the 1000 block of Drive Fort Valley Road in Roane County on June 13, 2016. The two moved into the home with their 4 children: a 15-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl, a 13-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy.

Within one month of moving in, officials said the eldest son was confined to the basement for stealing fruit from the pantry and fridge. Investigators determined he had been confined to the basement in 2016 with no contact with anyone outside the basement until officials removed him on May 22, 2020.

During the search of the home, authorities said Michael Anthony Gray revealed a small concrete room built under the stairs where two of the children had been kept for punishment. The room allegedly had no running water and no electricity.

Court records stated a bucket inside the small room was filled with human feces and magazine pages used for wiping.

Records stated the house was filled with a urine smell, with human and animal feces throughout the home, on the walls and in a bed. The judge said a part of the basement was flooded with old trash scattered throughout, with no running water and exposed wires.

Shirley Gray completed paperwork stating that all children were currently meeting all their home school assessments, despite the fact that one child was dead and other children were locked in the basement.

Officials said all the children appeared to be stunted in growth and lacked the necessary education for their age.

The Grays are set to appear in court again on Sept. 30, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.

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