DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — A grand jury has indicted three people who are accused of forcing a young boy to live in a dog cage for months.

On Monday, detectives testified before a grand jury about the case and they returned a total of nineteen indictments against Shelley Barnes, Jonathan Starr and Sarah Starr. These charges were prepared after reviewing digital evidence and consulting with the district attorney.

The boy’s father, Jonathan Starr, is charged with

  • Two counts of felony negligent child abuse inflicting serious mental/emotional injury
  • Felony child abuse inflicting serious physical injury

The boy’s stepmother, Sarah Starr, is charged with

  • Seven counts of felony negligent child abuse inflicting serious mental/emotional injury
  • Misdemeanor child abuse
  • Three counts of felony child abuse inflicting serious physical injury

Shelley Lucille Barnes, the homeowner and Sarah Starr’s aunt, is charged with

  • Two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
  • Misdemeanor child abuse
  • Assault on a child under 12
  • Two counts of felony negligent child abuse inflicting serious mental/emotional injury

On Oct. 19, Davidson County deputies responded to a home in Lexington about reports of a 9-year-old boy locked in a dog kennel. Search warrants show that an anonymous person called 911 just before 7 a.m. on Oct. 19 who told them about the child and said that her husband had taken the child some food “in the past.”

Sarah Lynette Starr, Jonathan Scott Starr and Shelley Lucille Barnes (Davidson County Sheriff’s Office)

The child was found in a t-shirt, jeans and no shoes on a night when temperatures reached below freezing. There was frost on the ground, according to deputies.

Deputies saw Sarah Starr at the back door of the home holding a small child. They say she walked out of sight and turned the lights off. The deputies secured the 9-year-old and then forced entry into the home, where they detained Starr. She told deputies she did not know the combination to the lock on the kennel and that only Barnes knew it.

She was holding an eight-month-old baby and a four-year-old was found underneath her bed. They were taken out of the home by EMS.

While EMS checked out the child, he said that he had been living outside since April. The warrant goes on to say that Starr told them she knew that the child was being held in the dog kennel but reiterated that her aunt, Barnes, was the only one with the combination. She allegedly told a detective that she and her husband, Jonathan Starr, were “upset about it.”

Starr’s two daughters, seven and eight years old, were at school at the time.

A man arrived at the scene on a four-wheeler and told deputies that the child had been in the kennel since at least 10:30 p.m. the night before. Warrants say that the man said he had brought the child a coat and snacks.

The child also told a lieutenant that he did not have a room in the house “because he lived outside.”

All five of the children were taken into custody by the Department of Social Services and during a press conference, the sheriff’s office said that the children were in good health.

Jonathan and Sarah Starr’s bonds have been increased to $1 million secured.