Police: Family forced teen to live in filthy garage before starvation death

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An emaciated teenager who was found dead in a Bartlett home last year had been forced by family members to live in a filthy, cold garage with a mattress, portable toilet and bleach jug for a urinal, according to an official document.

Brandon Gray, 14, was found dead the morning of Jan. 7, 2020, in his family’s two-story home in the 3400 block of Skylight Drive. Officers described him at the time as extremely skinny.

An autopsy later revealed he had died of starvation. He weighed 60 pounds.

| More: Mother, 6 others indicted on murder charges after 60-pound teen dies of starvation in Bartlett home

Officers said they noticed a closet inside the garage with a locking mechanism on the outside of the door. Inside, the closet was lined with egg carton mattress acting as insulation. They also noted a thin blanket, a bran/corn mixture in a microwave and liquid from a V8 Splash can.

The family told police the boy was living in the garage away from the family after being accused of abusing another child in 2015. Police investigated the abuse claim but the outcome of the investigation is not known. Bartlett Police said they could not review the case notes.

A woman told officers she noticed Brandon unresponsive at 7:30 that morning. The call came in to Bartlett Police 33 minutes later.

A woman in the house told dispatchers before police arrived that she was unable to perform CPR on the boy because of her emotional state.

Terra Wells, Tessa Dishmon, Tamera Dishmon, Amanda Dishmon, Tabitha Sharp, Breanna Wells and Melvin Wells were indicted last week on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect.  

Another child, 12, was taken from the home and taken to a hospital. Officials said that child was also malnourished and had bruises and scars on her body.

In total, 10 children were living at the home with seven adults in what police called a communal living situation.

A neighbor said he’d noticed many people living at the house, and that at least one child was so thin he thought the child was a cancer patient.

A check of Shelby County records did not turn up any prior criminal record for the adults charged in this case.

Department of Children’s Services confirmed they are investigating the case but would not provide details.

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