Three people are being held responsible after a 13-year-old was found naked, shackled, and malnourished in an Alabama home.
According to 11 Alive, the boy’s mother, 32-year-old Dannielle Nicole Martin, the boy’s stepfather, 26-year-old Joshua David Martin, and the boy’s grandmother, 58-year-old Vickie Higginbotham, all appeared before a judge on September 24.
Both Dannielle and Joshua put the blame on Higginbotham during their statements — and she accepted that blame during her own testimony.
Authorities were alerted to the alleged abuse by an anonymous caller who said that there was a teenager bound by chains and padlocks inside the family’s home. As 11 Alive reports, that’s when police discovered that the boy had been chained to a door for roughly 18 hours. He had also reportedly been forced to sleep in a dog crate.
The investigator handling the case, Steven Geon, said in his testimony that the boy was being held in a room that wasn’t much bigger than the mattress that was laying on the floor.
Two other children, aged 12 and 5, were also inside the home and removed.
Both Dannielle and Joshua told the judge that they had no idea Higginbotham was abusing the child by chaining him up and leaving him naked for hours.
However, the judge who presided over the hearing, Judge Joy Booth, had a hard time believing their stories.
Dannielle, who called herself a stay-at-home mom, told Booth:
“We didn’t know what she did. My mother has a mind of her own. I tried to stop her when she put him in the dog crate.”
To which Booth responded by saying:
“You tell me you didn’t know what was going on? You lived in that house. You walked past this child like this? I…, not even…, I’m through with you!”
Joshua had a similar excuse, saying the long hours he worked that day meant he wasn’t home to witness the abuse.
And when it was Higginbotham’s turn to stand in front of Booth, she told the judge that she is fully to blame for how the 13-year-old was treated.
“My son-in-law had nothing to do with this. He works all the time. My daughter had nothing to do with this. I did this. They didn’t do anything. I made a bad decision with the child.
I didn’t know what to do with the child. I did what was done to me when I was a child.”
The grandmother continued:
“They didn’t know that I chained the child to the bed at night. Dannielle and Josh had nothing to do with this. I would never harm a child on purpose. I made a mistake.”
Judge Booth interrupted the 58-year-old to say:
“That’s the only honest thing I’ve heard you say today. How could they not know that child was chained to the stairs? No. No. NO! I’m through with you, I don’t want to hear anymore.”
The judge then addressed the courtroom:
“Don’t worry. The children are safe now and are going to be protected.”
All three of the defendants remain in the Autauga County Metro Jail. The teenager was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for malnourishment.
You can watch the full press conference held by the Autauga County Sheriff’s Office below: