Second child's remains recovered in connection to Roane Co. child abuse case

Source: WVLT News
Source: WVLT News(WVLT)
Published: May. 27, 2020 at 4:21 PM EDT
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Two adopted children who were in the custody of a

are dead after remains were found buried in the backyard at a Halls home, a warrant shows.

One neighbor told WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara that he remembers the children for the conversations they had.

"Well there were two little girls and they were older than the little boys. The girls could hold conversation just like the adults. Especially the oldest one," said Homer Johnson.

Johnson said the boys that lived in the home were very quiet, but seemed to want attention, "They never had much to say, but they were always wanting somebody to love them."

When it came to the adults living in the home, Michael Gray Sr., Shirly Gray, Michael Gray Jr. and his male partner, Johnson only had one word to describe them, "weird".

Johnson said he never had much conversation with the adults because they were 'hard to talk to'.

Another child was found dead at the couple's current home in Roane County on May 22.

The Department of Children's Services released a statement about the case on Friday afternoon:

"Words are inadequate. Cruelty such as this makes us question all that we know to be true. I am so grateful to the passersby who saw a child in a situation that just didn’t seem right and stopped to help. That one small action led to the discovery of children who were victims of severe abuse and neglect. Those children are now in a safe place and being cared for and their parents face significant criminal charges. I am also thankful for our DCS child protective services staff who worked together as a team, followed their instincts to dig a little further when first notified of the situation and immediately alerted law enforcement. State privacy protection laws prohibit me from providing specific details of this open case, but rest assured, we will continue to work with law enforcement and the district attorney as they continue the criminal investigation and justice is served," said Commissioner Jennifer Nichols.
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The Halls home's current resident is the couple's adult son, Michael Anthony Gray, Jr. Investigators said they believe Gray Jr. was aware of the abuse and deaths.

Records show a cell phone was seized from Gray Jr. that contained messages saying "Hey, do I need to put [redacted name] and [redacted name] on the census? I don't know if they share info with the IRS ..."

Investigators say they believe the evidence shows Gray Jr. was aware of the abuse despite telling authorities he was not.

WVLT News Reporter Robert Grant on Thursday watched as officials spent the day carrying boxes and bags from the home. By early afternoon, officials backed a large white trailer into the driveway of the home, possibly to store collected evidence.

A warrant shows multiple items were taken from the home, including an iPad, a Nintendo Switch, a Nintendo Wii, laptop computers and multiple iPhones.

Law enforcement investigating Halls home

HAPPENING NOW: Law enforcement officials are at the scene of a Halls home with a connection to a Roane County child abuse investigation. The latest:

Posted by WVLT on Thursday, May 28, 2020

Wednesday, neighbors told WVLT News they watched Knox County Sheriff's Office deputies investigate the home in Halls that property assessor officials said belongs to Michael Anthony Gray, Junior. Records indicate he's the son of the Roane County couple charged in the death of their young daughter,

being kept confined to a basement for months and was fed only bread and water.

Michael Anthony Gray, Sr., 63, and Shirley Gray, 60, were charged after a three-day investigation led officers to find the skeletal remains of a child behind a home in Roane County. Investigators said the couple admitted that the 11-year-old girl had died in 2017, and they buried her in the backyard.

A neighbor told WVLT News that officials were at the home on Cedarbreeze Road in Halls early Saturday around 1:30 a.m. and that the coroner was on scene. Neighbors said they observed officials place something in the back of the coroner's vehicle. They also said they saw one marked Knox County Sheriff's Office vehicle. Neighbors said that they remembered the Roane County couple living there before the son moved in.

Later that morning, neighbors said officials had equipment digging up the backyard. On Sunday, neighbors said officials were back and were taking things from the home.

The owner, Michael Anthony Gray, Junior, hung up when WVLT News called for information. The Knox County Sheriff's Office confirmed it has an active investigation but would not confirm further details.

Knox County Assistant District Attorney Sean McDermott told WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara, "Ethical rules prohibit the DA's Office from commenting on a pending investigation."

When WVLT News called Roane County DA Russell Johnson on Wednesday, his office said he was meeting with Knox County officials.

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