When a teacher caught a 9-year-old trying to steal her food in January, police say, the girl told a harrowing story of the abuse she received at home.
The girl said her father, Jesse Piatt, and stepmother, Trish Piatt, made her drink toilet water and sleep outside or in the bathtub, police say. She alleged that her parents didn’t give her any blankets, according to WTXL, and that they always fed her dry ramen noodles that they served to her in the bathroom or on the floor.
The 9-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee, added that her parents refused to feed her if she got two meals at school, police say.
The teacher alerted police, who opened an investigation into the alleged child abuse, according to WREG. When officers arrived to the school that day, they allegedly found the lean girl wearing oversized black tennis shoes and filthy clothing. The girl also had a shaved spot on her head that she said she received from Trish Piatt in a bout of anger.
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Teachers had previously bought the girl a new pair of shoes that she could put on at school, they told police, but the shoes were never seen again after she wore them home one day, according to WSB-TV2.
After his daughter tried to steal food, Jesse Piatt arrived at the school and called her an “embarrassment,” police say. The man said he kept his daughter in the bathroom for his own safety, WSB-TV2 reported, because she had an undiagnosed medical condition and he feared she would kill him while he slept.
Jesse Piatt said he wanted to get his daughter into a mental facility, according to WREG. Police allege that the father did not try to talk to his daughter and continued to laugh and joke about the situation.
The father added that the girl hadn’t brushed her teeth in about a year, police say, because she refused to do it.
During the police investigation, a doctor found the girl had bruises, abrasions and other signs that she had been abused and deprived of proper medical treatment and food, WSB-TV2 wrote. She also allegedly had a broken arm that didn’t heal correctly.
An agent with the state’s Department of Children’s Services arrived at the school in January and recommended that the girl go home with her father, according to LocalMemphis.com. But a police officer told the agent, who said the DCS had other reports on the girl in the past, that it wasn’t safe for the 9-year-old to go home.
Officials instead sent the girl to a foster home, according to LocalMemphis.com, where police say she is recovering well.
Police concluded their investigation and charged Trish and Jesse Piatt with aggravated child abuse and neglect on Thursday, according to WREG. They were placed in the Shelby County Jail.
Dee Wimberley, a neighbor of the Piatts, said she couldn’t believe what police accused Trish and Jesse of doing.
“It makes me sick,” Wimberley told LocalMemphis.com. “How can somebody do that to a child?”
“For it to happen right here under our nose makes me extremely sad,” she added. “It makes me angry that I didn't know it was going on.
“It breaks my heart for this child knowing she had to go through what she went through.”