GREENBRIER, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Greenbrier Police Department and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) rescued two children and arrested the children’s mothers for allegations of abuse and child neglect.
According to authorities, one of the children, a 15-year-old girl, was locked in a space smaller than a coffin. The other child, age 9, has not seen a doctor since infancy and has never seen a dentist.
On April 18, a child abuse complaint brought Greenbrier police and DCS to the address where the camper is located.
Officials said the couple, together for several years, had moved recently from Ohio.
It’s unclear why the two women and their children, not related, came to Greenbrier.
Terri L. Powell, 52, is the mother of the 15-year-old girl. Hattie Ellien Swiat, 38, is the mother of the 9-year-old.
“One of the kids did state if she could change things, she would live in a cleaner environment where she could take a shower,” said Lt. Buster Locklayer.
According to investigators, the 9-year-old girl has never been to school and has not seen a doctor or dentist since she was an infant.
Police said the women claim their children are home-schooled, but when pressed on this issue, there was no curriculum or course or lesson plan that the women could provide.
When it came to medical care, that too seemed to be severely lacking.
“We asked about shots and immunizations and she has not received those,” said Locklayer.
According to officials, as discipline for recently taking one of the mother’s cell phones and using it inappropriately, the 15-year-old was placed in a space under the couch for 13 hours, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.
Police measured the space under the couch that also had random items stored under it.
The space is 4.5 feet long, 2.5 feet wide and 10 inches high.
“Thirteen hours in a space you cannot even turn over. So, you are confined to laying in that one position,” Locklayer said.
Authorities said, once sealed up, the space is pitch black, with no air holes and no way to access a bathroom.
Police said the parents have confessed to the authorities and have expressed no remorse for what they have allegedly done to these two girls.
“No, the mother that admitted to doing this was more apologetic to us and DCS about not being truthful upon our arrival.”
Officials said one of the mothers said she put the 15-year-old in the confined space “in an effort not to hit her.”
In addition, the mother reportedly admitted to sometimes placing the child’s head under a pillow or blanket so “she didn’t have to see her face.”
When Locklayer was asked if he feels like he may have saved the girl’s lives, he said, “I hope so. I hope so. I am feeling a lot better than when I arrived.”
News 2 has learned that DCS has opened up an active investigation. Agents are looking into possible issues of educational and medical neglect, as well as physical and psychological abuse.
The children are currently staying with friends of the family while the investigation plays out.
The two mothers are in jail, charged with multiple felonies including aggravated child abuse and neglect.