Trigger warning: this post contains content regarding child abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
According to the Journal News, a seven-year-old boy was found by a police officer in Franklin, USA, wandering streets trying to sell his teddy bear.
The officers were contacted by a resident who noticed the little boy, and when Officer Steve Dunham approached the child, he said he hadn’t eaten for days.
“It broke my heart,” Officer Dunham told WLWT. “He told me he was trying to sell his stuffed animal to get money for food because he hadn’t eaten for several days.”
In response, Dunham went to the closest Subway with the child to get him something to eat.
“[We] said a little prayer and ate dinner together,” the officer said.
While the pair ate, another two police officers attended the home of the boy where they reportedly found a home filled with garbage and cat urine.
An officer wrote in the original report of the house, that it caused “…A substantial risk of health and safety by neglected the cleanliness in the residence, having a large amount of bugs and spoiled food throughout the residence, not having properly prepared and packaged food for the minor children to eat, and allowing a 7-year-old child to wander from the residence without their permission or knowledge, in an attempt to locate food.”
Not only that, when the officers approached the parents about the whereabouts of their son, they didn’t even know he was missing.
The five children who lived in the house were immediately moved by child services and they are now in the care of relatives.
Parents, Tammi and Michael Bethel, were subsequently charged with five counts of child-endangering.
Despite leaving their children in a house with almost nothing to eat, Tammi Bethel has hit back at the police department for misrepresenting her family.
“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 and yes I was arguing with my kids to help clean the mess up,” Bethel wrote.
“BTW my kids didn’t even eat the food that the cops brought them because they had just ate.”