“I’ve been in law enforcement 36 years. This is the first time I’ve seen something quite this significant to be honest with you,” Sheriff Richie Simmons said during a Thursday news conference.
At 6:50 a.m., an anonymous citizen called and reported that a child was locked in a dog kennel overnight at a home on Cress Road, according to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies were dispatched and arrived on the scene shortly before 7:30 a.m.
Upon arrival, deputies found a 9-year-old child locked in a dog kennel, secured with a combination lock, outside of the home.
Simmons said it was about 28 degrees outside when they found the child, who had been locked in the outdoor kennel all night. Investigators later found animals at the home, but no animals were in the dog lot with the child.
“There was some clothes that was there, just bits and pieces, a little bit of food was inside, but not enough to sustain warmth for this child,” Simmons said.
Deputies forced entry and the child was “rushed” to EMS workers, who arrived on the scene to assist the deputies. They then entered the home and found a woman and two other children, who were also checked by EMS but had no visible injuries.
A search warrant was obtained and Jonathan Starr, the child’s father, was arrested along with the woman in the house, identified as Sarah Starr. Deputies arrested another woman, Shelley Barnes, at a later time.
The two women were said to be the child’s stepmother and aunt.
The 9-year-old was taken to Brenner’s Children’s Hospital and released the same day. Social services has taken custody of five children who lived in the home, including an infant, a 4-year-old, two children of elementary age, and the 9-year-old child at the center of the case.
While the other children were reportedly in “good health,” according to Simmons, the sheriff’s office believes this was not a one-time instance of abuse.
Sarah and Jonathan Starr are charged with felony child abuse inflicting serious physical injury, misdemeanor child abuse and false imprisonment.
Shelley Lucille Barnes is charged with felony child abuse inflicting serious physical injury, misdemeanor child abuse, false imprisonment and possession of a firearm by a felon. The warrants show Barnes was convicted of identity theft in Gaston County in 2004.
All three had their first appearance in court Thursday morning. Their case has been continued to Nov. 10.
Barnes received a $300,000 secured bond. The Starrs both received $100,000 bonds.