Remains discovered by authorities Saturday may have been the adopted son of a Tennesee couple who allegedly buried another adopted child in their backyard.
Citing a warrant, WATE reported that the unidentified remains were discovered on a Knox County property where Michael Gray, Sr., 63, Shirley Gray, 60, their five adopted children, and their adult son, Michael Gray, Jr., lived until three to four years ago. The property is reportedly owned by Michael Gray, Jr.
Investigators believe the remains from Knox County are one of the couple’s adopted children who died in 2015 or 2016.
Authorities zeroed-in on the Grays last Friday, after someone called 911 about their 10-year-old son walking alone in the street in Roane County, about 55 miles west of Knox County. Officers eventually made contact with the couple, who allegedly claimed they didn’t realize he had left home.
The 10-year-old boy reportedly told the Department of Children’s Services investigators that another boy, a 15-year-old, was in the basement. The 10-year-old also revealed that a deceased child, an 11-year-old girl, was buried in the backyard of their home, according to reports.
Michael Gray, Sr. allegedly disclosed that his daughter, about 11 years old, died in 2017 and was buried in the backyard. He also mentioned that his 15-year-old son was imprisoned in the basement — which investigators learned he had been confined to since 2016.
Documents stated that the Roane County home was covered in animal feces and reeked of urine. The basement was reportedly covered in trash and had exposed wires and no running water.
Investigators believe the 15-year-old had no contact with the outside world since 2016 as punishment for stealing food. Along with the teen, the couple allegedly fed their 11-year-old daughter only bread and water in the months preceding her death. The girl’s remains were reportedly buried near a pole barn on the property. Her cause of death is not yet known.
The 15-year-old kept in the basement told authorities that a brother had become ill before disappearing from the residence. He also claimed his parents said his brother had moved in with another family, according to WATE.
According to the Knox County arrest warrant, the Grays never reported their two children’s deaths. Further, Michael Gray, Sr. reportedly said he and his wife told Michael Gray, Jr. that both deceased children were living with new families.
Despite this, Michael Gray, Jr. allegedly claimed the two deceased children as dependents on his tax returns for this year. In March, Michael Gray, Jr. sent a text message asking his father if he should register the two deceased children through the census, WATE reported.
Investigators reportedly believe that Michael Gray, Jr. was aware of child abuse and neglect transpiring at the Knox County home.
Michael Gray, Sr. and Shirley Gray are charged in Roane County with aggravated child abuse involving a child 8 years old or younger, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated child neglect, and abuse of a corpse. They remain jailed without bond.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that the three surviving children, two boys and a girl, are in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Deputies wrote that the children “appear to be stunted in growth” and had not received medical attention in at least six years.
“(Two of the children) appear to have no formal education,” according to the warrants, “and were, in fact, amazed by what a refrigerator does when they observed one in their foster home.”
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[Featured image: Michael Gray and Shirley Gray/Roane County]