Couples enter guilty pleas to child neglect, endangerment

Brad Hicks • Mar 21, 2013 at 5:16 PM

ERWIN — Four Unicoi Countians charged with child neglect in January after the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department said officers found them and their children living in filthy conditions pleaded guilty Thursday in Sessions Court.

On Jan. 8, officers were called to a home at 106 Justice Lane to conduct a welfare check on the children living there, according to a release from the sheriff’s department. Officials said UCSD Capt. Ron Arnold and Sgt. Gregg Cop were dispatched to the residence where they found trash and debris scattered all over the floor. They also found cats on the kitchen table and counters, along with pans, pots and other dirty dishes that had been sitting for a long period of time, according to the release.

“All rooms in the house had food scraps as well as animal feces on the floor,” the release states. “Feces was also present on piles of clothing throughout the house. ... Electrical wires were exposed in one of the bedroom closets also, posing an electrical shock hazard.”

Five children found to be living in the residence were placed with relatives, and UCSD Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said at the time that the Department of Children’s Services was involved in the case.

“It was one of the worst living environments I’ve seen since I’ve been in law enforcement,” Rogers said previously. “It was just a bad living environment for the kids. There’s no way you could say otherwise. It was a health hazard just to be in there, let alone crawling around eating food out of the floor.”

The four adults living at the residence were Eddie Effler, Amber Effler, Robby Lewis and Jennifer Lewis, according to officials. Eddie and Amber Effler were each charged with one count of child neglect, and Robby and Jennifer Lewis were each charged with four counts of child neglect.

On Thursday, all four of the charged appeared in Sessions Court. Eddie and Amber Effler each pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment, and Robby and Jennifer Lewis each pleaded guilty to four counts of child neglect. Each of the four was sentenced to probation for a period of 11 months 29 days.

Arnold said Thursday that the couples are no longer residing in the same home. He also said DCS is monitoring the residences and the Efflers and Lewises are “doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

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