A police officer said he was ‘heartbroken’ when he found a seven-year-old boy trying to sell a teddy bear on the street in order to eat for the first time in days.
Officer Steve Dunham took the boy to Subway – but it wasn’t until two other officers appeared at his home in Franklin, Ohio, that they realized he had been living among garbage, cat urine and liquor bottles, reports Daily Mail.
Parents Tammi and Michael Bethel, who told police they didn’t realize their son had gone missing, have been charged with five counts of child endangerment each.
But the mother-of-five hit back on Friday, commenting on the Franklin Police Department’s Facebook post about the incident to defend the state of her home.
She wrote: ‘I can also post pictures that I randomly took from January to August and it shows my house clean.
‘The cop just popped up on the wrong day I hadn’t had a chance to clean the mess that all them kids had made…
‘BTW my kids didn’t even eat the food that the cops brought them because they had just ate.
She also added: ‘Another BTW I could throw a rock from my house and hit CVS where my son was at. He goes down there all the time with his brothers.’
Police received a call last Saturday reporting a young boy had been wandering the streets alone, the Hamilton Journal News reported.
‘It broke my heart,’ Dunham told WLWT. ‘He told me he was trying to sell his stuffed animal to get money for food because he hadn’t eaten in several days.’
Dunham said he and the boy ‘said a little prayer and ate dinner together’ at the Subway across the street before he brought the kid back to the police department.
Meanwhile, officers Amanda Myers and Kyle O’Neal dropped by his home to find rotten food, ‘a large amount of bugs’ and squalid living conditions, according to an initial report cited by the Hamilton Journal News.
In alarming photographs of the home, a casserole dish sits on top of the oven with leftover food still inside while every other surface of the kitchen appears to be littered with containers.
Pictures inside the fridge showed it was largely empty with puddles of brown liquid accumulating inside the door.
Mum, Tammi insisted nothing was amiss, writing on Facebook that her kids created a mess, but were well clothed with ‘fresh kicks’.
She wrote yesterday: ‘All the kids are in the house. And my kids have went to Franklin long enough that we all know people.
‘They are not babies. The cops had to force them to take [the food] saying don’t waste it. And my son has always had fresh kicks!
‘As a matter of fact I bought all of them Steph Currys at the beginning of summer. Wth is wrong with being barefoot in the summer time? I know tons of ppl that go barefoot and it hasn’t killed them yet.’
She also wrote that she intended to file a lawsuit because an officer told her ‘none of this would go public right in front of the children services worker named Roy’.
The Bethels, who have a total of five children ages seven, 11, 12, 15 and 17, had not realized their seven-year-old had wandered off.
Warren County Children Services removed the children, who are currently under the care of their relatives, and a judge barred the parents from contacting them.
Tammi and Michael Bethel are due to appear at a pre-trial hearing scheduled on September 16.
Franklin police chief Russ Whitman said his officers treated the children ‘like their own kids’ before adding: ‘Hopefully, these officers’ actions change these kids’ lives and maybe change the lives of the parents to become better parents.’
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