Rhea County couple charged with abuse face separate arraignments

Rhea County couple charged with abuse face separate arraignments

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

Dennis Couch and Monica Hall

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The Rhea County, Tenn., couple arrested after investigators found them keeping a 5-year-old child harnessed to a bolt in the floor likely will have separate arraignment dates on child abuse charges.

Monica Hall, 39, and her boyfriend, Dennis Couch, 42, are charged with aggravated child abuse, neglect and endangerment. The Rhea County Sheriff's Office arrested them Monday.

Hall posted a $100,000 bond and will be arraigned Aug. 4 in Rhea County General Sessions Court. As of Friday, Couch was being held on a $125,000 bond pending his arraignment Tuesday, Circuit Court Clerk Jamie Holloway said.

Couch also is charged with initiating the manufacture of methamphetamine and unlawful drug paraphernalia uses and activities. The drug- related items were found in a well house where Couch sometimes slept, officials said.

Rhea County Sheriff's Office investigator Rocky Potter, who heads the department's Family Violence Task Force, is leading the probe.

He said last week the investigation started after tips reported a 5-year-old mentally challenged boy being harnessed to a bolt in the middle of the floor.

"The room consisted of no carpet and just a small mattress," Potter said. There were no bathrooom facilities and the door was padlocked.

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

The harness was fashioned from a dog harness and Couch's belt with some electrical tape 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.

The boy and two other children were placed with other family members until more permanent arrangements are made, officials said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.