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Skeletal Remains of Little Girl Found in Backyard and 3 Kids Taken from Home as Couple Is Charged


A teenager found in the basement was allegedly confined there since 2016, and was given only bread and water

By Chris Harris

A Tennessee couple is behind bars, charged with abuse of a corpse and aggravated child abuse and neglect, after the skeletal remains of a young girl were found buried in their backyard Saturday.

A statement from prosecutors confirms that Michael Anthony Gray, Sr., 63, and his wife, Shirley Ann Gray, 60, were taken into custody on Monday and remain in jail without bond.

Neither has an attorney of record who could comment on their behalf.

The couple has also been charged with especially aggravated kidnapping.

The Knoxville News Sentinel, citing the arrest warrant, reports that deputies from the Roane County Sheriff's Office received a call on Friday about a little boy, 10, walking alone on a road in Kingston.

According to the paper, the wandering child was identified and investigators went to meet with the Grays, finding another child, aged 11, at their nearby residence.

Investigators from the state's Department of Children's Services sat down with the 10-year-old, the warrant alleges, and he informed them there was not only a 15-year-old boy confined to the basement but the remains of a girl buried in the backyard.

Michael Gray also allegedly told police about the 15-year-old boy in the basement and the body in the backyard.

The girl's skeletal remains were excavated Saturday, reports WVLT, which also obtained a copy of the arrest warrant.

The warrant alleges the girl was around 10 when she died in 2017.

Authorities spent all day Sunday interviewing the three children removed from the Gray home.

According to the reports, the three children removed from the Grays' custody Friday were not the couple's biological children — although they did have legal custody of all three.

The warrant, WVLT reports, alleges the boy rescued from the basement had been confined there since 2016, as punishment for stealing food.

Investigators allege that the 15-year-old had no contact with the outside world and was only fed bread and water.

The Grays' home was allegedly covered in animal feces and smelled of urine, while the basement was reportedly trash riddled, with no running water and several exposed wires.

Police were also allegedly shown a small concrete room lacking electricity and running water, which they believe was also used to punish the 10- and 11-year-old children.

Detectives do not know how the deceased girl died, but an autopsy is being performed on her remains in an effort to determine that information.

No motive for the alleged crimes was specified.

2020 May 27