East TN couple charged with harnessing 5-year-old with special needs to floor

DAYTON, Tenn. (WATE) – A Rhea County couple has been charged with aggravated child abuse after investigators say they kept a 5-year-old with a mental disability harnessed to the floor.

Detectives with the Rhea County Sheriff’s Office told WTVC-TV the mother, Monica Hall, and her boyfriend, Dennis Couch, used a medium-sized dog harness attached to a man’s belt and fastened with electrical tape. It was then attached to a bolt on the floor.

The sheriff’s office says they were alerted to the case via a child abuse hotline. A family friend had told Hall they would call police if she didn’t stop using the harness.

Det. Rocky Potter told the Chattanooga TV station they would put the child in the harness for hours at a time and had been doing so for the last three months.

“There was a very distinct reaction when he saw me hold the harness,” Potter said to WTVC. “Fear. It was fear.”

Potter said the child is not verbal and can only string together a few words at a time. Two other children were living in the home at the time. All three have been removed from the home and are staying with relatives.

Couch also faces several drug charges. The couple is scheduled to appear in court on August 4.

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