A Tennessee couple is facing a slew of child abuse charges, including a homicide charge, after their 11-month-old baby died after being left with his two siblings in a hot car for several hours.
According to the Times Free Press, Travis McCullough left his three children in a car with the windows closed in 89 degree weather for at least five hours while he worked a shift at his father’s hot-wings truck, in order to earn money for gas.
McCullough’s father Daniel Evans told police that his son came by on Saturday asking for $20, and his father told McCullough he could work for the cash. Evans said he had no idea his son’s children were in the car that was parked outside for at least five hours, and that he had sent McCullough away on previous occasions when he’d come asking for work while his children were with him.
According to a police report obtained by the Times Free Press, a Good Samaritan pulled over when she heard McCullough crying for help outside the Buffalo Shack on Saturday evening. The report says that McCullough “tossed the lifeless victim who was completely unclothed into her arms and immediately fled the scene in his vehicle” when the witness got out of her car to help.
The suspect then took the other two children to a relative’s home, but that relative reportedly brought them back to the scene. Police are reportedly unsure of how the two older children survived — it is possible that they let themselves out of the car or their father did at some point during the five-plus hours McCullough worked at the Buffalo Shack while his father slept.
The surviving children, whose genders or exact ages have not been revealed, were taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation. They reportedly smelled strongly of urine, and one of the children appeared to be developmentally delayed and nonverbal. Both children showed clear signs of neglect and abuse: Black eyes, scars, and healing wounds on multiple areas of the body.
The surviving children were reportedly protective of their food when they were fed at the hospital, indicating they hadn’t eaten in a while.
Indeed, investigators visited the home and found an empty refrigerator along with unspeakably filthy conditions. One room was reportedly covered in feces and urine, and there was only one bed and one crib inside the apartment.
The children’s mother, Jessica Tollett, told police the family receives $649 a month in food stamps, but had run out more than a week before they were due to receive more. Tollett, 24, was at her job at Walmart when her infant died.
Both Tollett and McCullough,, 30, were arrested in 2012 on child abuse and neglect charges. McCullough was also arrested on drug and weapons charges in 2007.
McCullough, who reportedly stopped cooperating with the police after obtaining an attorney, has been charged with criminal homicide and three counts of aggravated assault. Tollett was charged with aggravated child abuse/neglect.
McCullough is being held on a $1 million bond.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that the infant victim is a boy. The gender of the deceased child is not yet confirmed.
Feature photo: Chattanooga Police Department