DYERSBURG, Tenn. – The Dyersburg police chief and neighbors say the system failed three young children removed from “deplorable” conditions at home on Brayton Avenue.

The Dyersburg Police Department said a probation and parole officer checking on the children’s mother last week discovered the kids living in filthy and dangerous conditions with at least seven dogs.

“I was in the Army. I’ve been to third-world countries, and children have never been treated that bad,” said a neighbor who did not want to be identified.

Officer said there was a foul odor coming from the residence, and there was so much trash in the house that there was no clear path to walk. Police said exposed wires were also hanging from inside the walls with nails sticking out of the studs.

They said three children, ages 9, 5, 4, appeared to be dirty and told the officers they didn’t have any shoes and had been wearing the same clothes for weeks.

A look inside the house where 3 children were living with their parents

A neighbor who said he gave the children food and clothing described what he once saw inside the house.

“Most of the sheetrock was gone. There were bare wires everywhere, 11 animals in the house. The animals were in the house for so long there were animals’ feces everywhere,” he said. “You couldn’t take a step anywhere. It was terrible. There was so much trash and unclean clothes everywhere, probably knee-deep everywhere you stood.”

Dyersburg police arrested the children’s parents. Angela McCaine, 26, and John Walton, 26, were charged with child abuse and neglect. Walton was also charged with possession of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana.

Police say during their investigation, they discovered that 11 referrals had been made with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services about the family.

Neighbors said they were among the people who reported the family and said Child Protective Services has been to the house about two dozen times over the last several years, but the children were never removed from the home.

“CPS has been here so many times it isn’t even funny. They would knock on the door, and people just wouldn’t answer the door. So, CPS would just go away.”

WREG asked DCS about the 11 referrals but was told that DCS could not discuss individual cases involving children and families due to state confidentiality laws.

Dyersburg Police Chief Steve Isbell, though, released this statement about the case:

“At this point in the investigation, I do not know where the referrals were generated from, however, the referrals were confirmed through DCS. I also do not know the status of those referrals. What I do know is there is an apparent breakdown when you have children living in those deplorable conditions, and the system in place that is designed to protect children has failed them.” 

Howard Haymon lives next door to the family. He said he tried to help out the family but had no idea what was happening inside the house.

“Sometimes I would give them food, give them money at times,” Haymon said. “She would tell me she didn’t have money for gas. They didn’t have any gas in the car or food, and I would give them money from time to time.”

Neighbors said they were just glad the kids were finally getting some help. The children, two girls and a boy, are now in the custody of DCS.

The City of Dyersburg has condemned the house on Brayton.

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Click here to get help.