Father charged after missing Tennessee girl found alive in squalid, barricaded outbuilding

U.S. and World

DEKALB COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A 6-year-old girl missing for a month was found in an outbuilding with no ventilation, barely any food or water and a bucket to use as a bathroom, according to investigators in DeKalb County, Tennessee.

DeKalb County Sheriff Patrick Ray said agencies from across Middle Tennessee spent hours searching for the 6-year-old, who was last seen by family members on May 26.

Sheriff Ray said the girl had been removed from the custody of her father after the two were found camped out under a bridge in rising creek water on March 18 at Dry Creek and Pea Ridge Road.

He was arrested on a charge of child abuse and neglect, while the girl was placed in the temporary custody of a family member. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services later allowed the father to live in the same household with his daughter.

DCS contacted the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office on June 21 to file a missing child report after the agency was granted custody of the 6-year-old. They were unable to locate the girl, and a family member said she had not been seen since May 26.

A bloodhound from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office located a scent Friday evening that led to an outbuilding on the father’s property, according to investigators. Sheriff Ray said the door to the outbuilding was barricaded, the windows had been covered up with metal and the man and his daughter were inside.

The sheriff revealed there was no ventilation and air conditioning inside the small outbuilding, there was barely any food or water for the child and the outbuilding “had a strong ammonia smell,” where the two had been using a five gallon bucket as a bathroom.

The man was arrested and booked into the DeKalb County jail on a charge of child abuse or neglect. He also had warrants for failure to appear and custodial interference.

Bond for the suspect was set at $175,000.

The 6-year-old girl was released into the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

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