East Tennessee child abuse, murder case makes its way through court

The Gray parents were charged in two cases involving child abuse and murder.
The Gray family members were charged in two cases involving child abuse and murder.
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 12:32 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 3, 2022 at 4:22 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - An East Tennessee couple accused of child abuse, murder abuse of a corpse and fraud appeared in court Friday for a status hearing. The incident involved one Knox County murder and another centered in Roane County. Friday’s hearing was for the Knox County case.

The Knox County portion of the case centered on Michael Anthony Gray, Michael Anthony Gray Jr., and Shirley Ann Gray. The investigation began when Roane County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a call saying someone had dropped off a child who said he didn’t know where his parents were, but then spanned counties as officials investigated further.

The Roane County deputies reportedly took the child home to his parents - the Grays - where they discovered that the two had not known the child had left. The deputies then took the child to the Department of Child Services office in Kingston, where he told investigators that another 15-year-old child was in the basement of the home and a third child, dead, had been buried in the back yard, according to RCSO officials.

RCSO investigators said Gray Sr. admitted that his 11-year-old daughter had died in 2017 and was buried in the back yard. The daughter was reportedly confined to the basement as punishment for stealing food and within months had passed away. She had allegedly only been fed bread and water while in the basement. She was not the only child to suffer the basement punishment, according to the investigation.

Allegedly, the Grays punished another of their four children, a 15-year-old boy, by confining him to the basement in 2016 with no contact with anyone until officials removed him in May of 2020. The room in the basement was reportedly fully made of concrete and contained a bucket and magazine papers for using the bathroom.

During the course of the investigation, officials also discovered the body of another child, that of Johnathan Dalton Gray, 8, buried at a Knox County home belonging to Gray Jr. That case was investigated by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and is where Gray Jr.’s charges stem from.

Gray Sr., Gray Jr., and Shirley Gray
Gray Sr., Gray Jr., and Shirley Gray(JIMS)

While all this was happening, the Grays were also reportedly collecting benefits for caring for the children, including those that had died.

Michael Gray Sr. and Shirley Gray both face charges for felony murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, abuse of a corpse, Tenncare fraud and theft. Michael Gray Jr. is facing charges of felony murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect and abuse of a corpse. The Gray parents have pleaded “not guilty” to their charges.

The family is set to appear in court on Sept. 30 at 9:30 a.m.

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