Parents charged with neglect after nearly nude autistic boy, 7, found wandering in Carter Co.

John Thompson • Nov 5, 2013 at 5:32 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The parents of a 7-year-old boy were arrested Saturday morning on child neglect charges after neighbors found the boy wandering around the neighborhood alone and without warm clothes on a chilly morning.

Steve Kelly Phillips, 28, and Tracy Darlene Phillips, 29, both of 149 Mil Pond Road, Lot 13, were each charged with child neglect by Carter County Sheriff's Lt. Keith Range.

Range reported that he was dispatched to the neighborhood at 9:50 a.m. on a complaint by a neighbor who said he saw a small child wandering around vehicles and running through the yard. Range found the child and attempted to speak with him, but aid he was not able to establish a dialogue.

Range said the child was only wearing a t-shirt that was wet and had no shoes or underclothes on. The temperature was 46 degrees. Range could not immediately determine where the child lived, so he took a picture of him, then placed him in the back of Deputy Brady Higgins' cruiser.

The officers went door to door in the neighborhood with the photograph in an attempt to identify the child. They finally made contact with someone who recognized the boy and where he lived, which was approximately one-quarter of a mile from where he was found.

When Range reached the residence, he found the front door was standing open and that the bottom hinge of the door was broken, causing it to hang free. Range knocked on the side of the trailer and identified himself, but received no response.

He noticed a man lying on the couch. Again, he identified himself, but got no response. After a minute, a woman came from the rear of the trailer. The woman was identified as Tracy Phillips. She woke up the man, identified as Steve Phillips.

Range then told the couple that he had found their son wandering around down the road. Range said Mrs. Phillips said her son was autistic and she had not realized he was missing.

While speaking with the couple, Range said, he noticed trash and food on the floor, along with dog feces and what appeared to be human feces on the floors and walls.

Range said Mrs. Phillips also told him she could not secure the front door because her husband had broken it during the night. Range reported Mrs. Phillips told him the last time she saw her son was at 4 a.m., when her husband returned from a Johnson City night club.

The Department of Children Services was notified and responded to the scene. The boy was placed in the care of a family member. The child was also checked by the Carter County Rescue Squad.

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