Couple charged with chaining boy to floor going to trial

Couple charged with chaining boy to floor going to trial

August 18th, 2017 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Monica Hall

Monica Hall

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The case against a Rhea County, Tenn., couple charged in June with chaining a 5-year-old boy to the floor of their home was bound over to a grand jury after a preliminary hearing earlier this week.

Monica Hall, 39, and her boyfriend, Dennis Couch, 42, each were charged with aggravated child abuse, neglect and endangerment after deputies investigating a tip found the boy locked in a room. Hall told them the harness used to restrain him was in the home's hallway, authorities said in June.

Hall and Couch appeared before Rhea County General Sessions Judge Shannon Garrison and were bound over to the grand jury as originally charged, 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor said.

Taylor said the grand jury probably will hear the case during its October session.

Meanwhile, Hall is free on $100,000 bond while Couch remains behind bars on $125,000 bond. Couch's bond is higher because he also is charged with initiating the manufacture of methamphetamine and unlawful drug paraphernalia uses and activities. The drug-related items were found at the home in a well house where Couch sometimes slept, officials said.

Dennis Couch

Dennis Couch

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The lead detective on the case said at the time of the arrests that the situation at the Evensville home was unlike anything he had ever seen.

"The room consisted of no carpet and just a small mattress," Rhea County Sheriff's Office investigator Rocky Potter said in June. There were no bathroom facilities, and the door was padlocked, he said.

Officers could hear the boy yelling "out, out" and "hungry, hungry." When the door was unlocked, the boy ran to the refrigerator, according to an arrest report.

The harness was fashioned from a dog harness and Couch's belt that fit around the boy's chest. Potter said the child allegedly was tethered to the bolt by a 3-foot-long cable for hours and occasionally overnight.

Authorities said during the investigation that the Tennessee Department of Children's Services had contact with Hall in the past about the same boy. Couch was not involved on the previous occasions Children's Services officials had contact with Hall, according to authorities.

Hall and Couch are charged under the 2005 Tennessee statute known as Haley's Law. That law stiffens punishment for certain child abuse defendants if they are convicted.

Under the law, the charge of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment becomes a class A felony when it involves a victim 8 years old or younger or one who is "mentally defective, mentally incapacitated or suffers from a physical disability."

A Class A felony in Tennessee carries a penalty of 15-60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000, according to state law.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.