3 charged after toddler found in cage

[Photo credit: Henry County Sheriff's Office]

An anonymous tip about "large scale" animal abuse led law enforcement to a rural residence in Henry County, Tennessee yesterday.


As officers approached the propped-open front door of the single-wide trailer and made their presence known, they were greeted with the above image of a young child, about 18 months old, inside of a 4x4 foot kennel.


Occupying the same room with the child was a 10-foot boa constrictor and seven other snakes.  Propped up against the side of the kennel were buckets containing 150-200 mice.


“It was heartbreaking to see the conditions this child was living in,” Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew said according to the Tennessean. “There was nothing for that baby in the entire house outside of the cage he was in. All his toys were in there with him.  There were no other toys, no crib, no blankets for him. It appeared he spent most if not all his time in the cage, and the ammonia smell that came up when we lifted the cage and the bugs that were under it makes it appear as if he stayed in there a lot.”


Officers discovered deplorable conditions throughout the entirety of the residence including some rooms that were completely devoid of flooring and thousands of cockroaches and maggots.  What floors there were were covered in feces.


"With all of the law enforcement experience up here, it's hard to find something that actually shocks us," Sheriff Belew said. "I've never seen this before, and I can guarantee the gentlemen up here with me have never seen this before."


86 chickens and roosters, 56 dogs, one of which evidently gave birth earlier today, 10 rabbits, 4 parakeets, 3 cats, 8 snakes, 1 pheasant, 531 mice, rats and hamsters, 1 gecko, and 3 sugar gliders were all removed from the residence.


Additionally, law enforcement removed 127 marijuana plants and 17 guns from the property.


T.J. Brown, 46, Heather Scarbrough, 42, and Charles Brown, 82, have all been charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated animal cruelty, possession of firearm in commission of a felony, manufacturing of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and cruelty to animals.  They are all being held in lieu of $300,000 and have a court date scheduled for June 30th.


T.J. faces an additional charge of possession of a firearm by a felon.


The possibility of more charges and counts have not been ruled out as this is an ongoing investigation.


The Department of Children's Services has taken custody of the child.