Court documents show custody battle over babysitter's children

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Relatives say Jennifer Salley — the woman police say was watching twins who drowned at her in-home daycare on July 20 — did not have custody of her own two children, and court documents back up that claim.

Salley's parents, Timothy and Barbara Salley, have been fighting for custody of her two children since initial paperwork was filed June 9, 2015. WVLT News spoke with Jennifer Salley's sister on the phone Sunday afternoon, who confirmed the custody battle was ongoing and they were due in court on July 24.

Salley initially adopted the two boys in Florida, and according to the documents she handed the children over to her parents in February 2012 after Florida terminated adoption assistance payments.

In July 2013, Jennifer Salley allegedly began receiving adoption assistance again and she got them back. The grandparents said their contact with the children was limited to just a few weekend visits since.

"Throughout that time, petitioners have been supportive of respondent's role as Mother to the boys," the court document reads. "It was their sincere hope that she would mature into the role upon getting her own life in order and they have supported her both physically and financially in that effort."

The grandparents claimed they took one of the boys to the doctor in July 2014 for a school examination, and the doctor found some concerning things and reported the incident to Child Protective Services. This event, paired with several other allegations the children made to their grandparents, prompted Timothy and Barbara Salley to file for custody of the boys.

Several friends of Jennifer Salley wrote letters of support on her behalf, one of which calling the grandparent's quest for custody of the children "absurd." This friend wrote they let Jennifer Salley babysit their child and felt "entirely comfortable" with her.

"We do not know what has motivated someone to make these scandalous allegations, but based on our personal experience and observation they are completely unfounded," the friend wrote in a letter.

That person has since recanted their support of Jennifer Salley.