*With this story we are reminded of why police officers can still be a valuable resource. Imagine a 7-year-old boy standing outside of a neighborhood CVS store, offering up his little teddy bear to anybody who will buy it because he needs money to buy something to eat.
Yes, I said he is seven.
We hear these dreadful stories each day, but usually they are happening in poverty-stricken third world countries. This happened in the United States of America. In Ohio.
The little boy hadn’t eaten in several days.
And not only was he alone, standing at the busy intersection of Second and Main in Franklin — he wasn’t even having any luck! So now we get to imagine ANYONE passing a child on the streets and not offering to help him; not INSISTING on finding out why he is out there before taking him to a police station.
His family never missed him, apparently. They didn’t even know he was gone until police showed up at their nasty-ass house and arrested them.
But there I go, getting ahead of myself.
Fortunately, the child was approached by a police officer before some weirdo took him and did something even more horrible than starving him.
Officer Steve Dunham took the little boy back to the police station; where he sat and watched cartoons while officers went to his home to investigate.
“It broke my heart,” Dunham told WLWT. “He told me he was trying to sell his stuffed animal to get money for food because he hadn’t eaten in several days.”
Dunham said the child was initially shy and uncomfortable.
“I think he thought he would get in trouble,” he told CNN. “He told me he was hungry and was trying to get money for food.”
Dunham ended up buying the child some food and he and the boy “said a little prayer and ate dinner together.”
He didn’t buy the child’s teddy bear.
Dunham learned that the parents are Tammy and Michael Bethel, and they live on Main Street. So while Dunham stayed behind to entertain the child, fellow officers Amanda Myers and Kyle O’Neal went to the house.
And yes, they were disgusted by what they saw.
A report in the Washington Post shows a photo the officers took of the nasty refrigerator (shown above) — containing items such as a rotten unopened package of raw chicken that had turned a deep, dark brown; the side door where jars of salad dressing and other condiments usually sit had a container that was filled halfway with a black liquid that had small chunks of something unidentifiable floating in it. They say the entire refrigerator was smeared with some kind of yellowing-black-sludge.
All of which lent itself to the horrendous smell of the entire house; enhanced by the scent of human pee and cat urine.
You get the idea. You don’t need to see their photo of the rest of the house.
According to the WP, Tammy and Michael Bethal were arrested and the other children in the house were fed after Warren County Children Services conducted an emergency removal of four children and an unnamed 7-year-old, who they put in the custody of unidentified relatives.
The parents were arraigned on Tuesday (but widespread news on this didn’t happen until Friday) and I would’ve given anything to be in the courtroom when they said they were not guilty — most likely with a straight face — to five counts (some reports say 10) each of child endangerment, as reported by the Associated Press.
It is incidents like this that makes me wish I had gone into law and become a prosecuting attorney.
Dunham visited the child later and says…
“I came back to check on him and he was hiding. He jumped out to scare me when I came back in the building; he got me real good,” Dunham told WLWT. “[We] would like to go home at the end of the day feeling like [we’ve] done something positive and, you know, had some kind of positive impact.”
Pretrial hearing for the parents are st for September 6, and in the meantime they have been advised not to contact the children.
And as news of Dunham’s actions circulated, grateful citizens wrote messages of thanks, gratitude and encouragement on the Franklin Ohio Police Department’s Facebook page.
“Franklin Ohio police department you’re the best. Thank you for doing what you do. You got great officers and thank god for officer Steve Dunham,” wrote one user. “A heartfelt thanks for the caring, concern and decisive action of the officers involved in this tragic case, from the mother of a young officer in Georgia,” wrote another. “Just read the story. You guys (and gals) probably wonder from time to time in your careers if you really make a difference out on the street…..Clearly, you do. Excellent job. And Thank you for protecting us all,” wrote a third.
Watch the Daily News video report directly below.