UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. - Five children in Unicoi County are now in the state's custody and their parents are facing child neglect charges. The sheriff's department tells us it was a tip with concerns for the children's health and safety that sparked the investigation.
Investigators are calling it one of the worst cases they've seen in a long time. Neighbors say the young families haven't lived at the home for too long and it was a shock to hear this devastating news.
Neighbors can never really know what's happening behind closed doors. "It just breaks my heart, it breaks my heart because as adults we are to take care of our children and they depend on us," said neighbor Jeanette Tilson.
On Tuesday an anonymous tip sent deputies with the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department to a home on Justice Lane to check on the health and safety of the children inside. "My chief deputy was on scene as well as investigators that have been around and seen a lot of stuff. He said this is one of the worst cases he has seen in a long time," said Sheriff Mike Hensley.
Two families with a total of five children, all under 10-years-old, were living in what investigators say were dangerous and deplorable conditions. "Trash throughout the property, inside as well. Dirty dishes, cats and dogs, clothing was strewn around the house, there was human feces and cat feces found in the house," added Sheriff Hensley.
Now Eddie Effler, Jr., Amber Effler, Robby Lewis, and Jennifer Lewis are all charged with child neglect. News 5 went to the home to see if the families would talk, but knocks were not answered.
Sheriff Hensley says the children are now in the State's custody. "It's sad that they're separated from their family but they need to be taken care of," added Tilson.
News 5 learned the parents are currently not in jail, that's because Sheriff Hensley says the families were issued citations giving them the chance to clean up their home before they head back to court. But Sheriff Hensley adds they are still investigating and there is the possibility for more charges.