UPDATE: Father faces judge in hot car death of 10-month-old child
Two parents remain behind bars and charged with child neglect after police discovered living conditions they described as "atrocious."
UPDATE: For the first time Tuesday, a Hamilton County judge heard the case against a Chattanooga father accused of leaving his three children inside a hot car.
It happened four months ago outside the Buffalo Shack on Tunnel Boulevard.
The youngest child, a 10 month old baby died.
The child's father, Travis McCullough, listened to testimony Tuesday from family, witnesses and investigators as they helped piece together what unfolded on July 8th when police say McCullough left the baby and two other siblings inside his SUV while he worked.
McCullough's father said his son showed up that morning asking for gas money and told him he would have to work for it, not knowing that would result in leaving the children in the SUV.
Six hours later, court records show Kiara's temperature was more than 106 degrees when she was found. The other two children did not have any serious injuries.
Hamilton County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Cogswell said the hot temperature coupled with the baby's age, size and inability to move in the car seat may have contributed to her death.
"Would that have an effect upon, if the child was lying in the seat?" the judge asked during Tuesday's hearing.
"Yes sir, it probably would. Because whether you have a breeze blowing over you or you move, it functionally is going to get airflow over your body," Cogswell said.
Officer Cameka Bruce with Chattanooga Police Department's Violent Crimes Unit testified McCullough worked with police throughout their investigation.
She also described the moment he broke down in the back of her police cruiser, saying no one wanted to help him.
"And he kept saying he was going to make them pay because no body wanted to help him out, he said yes I did have my kids, all three of them," she said.
McCullough's attorney Diane Phillips argued without surveillance video or witnesses to prove the kids were in the car and for exactly how long, the charges shouldn't stick.
But the judge disagreed, bounding the case over to the grand jury.
The mother of the children, Jessica Tollett, faces attempted child abuse charges due to conditions inside the home. She is due in court on those charges later this month.
Stay with Channel 3 for updates on this story.
The father accused of leaving three of his children in a hot car was in court Tuesday.
Travis McCullough was charged criminal homicide after his 10-month-old infant died in July.
The grandfather testified in court Tuesday that he opened the car's door to charged a speaker for a few hours and never noticed the children inside.
PREVIOUS STORY: A mother's charges in a child abuse case have been reduced in the death of a baby left in a car earlier in July.
Twenty-four-year-old Jessica Tollett's charges are now three counts of attempted child abuse. Tollett's previous charges were aggravated child abuse.
Tollett's case has now been sent to the Grand Jury. Her bond is $75,000.
PREVIOUS STORY: Two parents remain behind bars and charged with child neglect after police discovered living conditions they described as "atrocious."
Police say the couple had three children however, one died after being left in a hot car.
The father, 30-year-old Travis McCullough is charged with criminal homicide, while the mother, 24-year-old Jessica Tollett faces three counts of aggravated child neglect.
Investigators that responded to the family's home said the conditions were so bad it appeared that the kids were living like dogs.
"He left her in the car. I don't know. I’m not for sure! …The baby's not breathing, the baby is limp, oh my Jesus!”
That's the chilling 911 call a woman made to police when Travis McCullough left his dying baby in her arms.
Police said McCullough left his three children in a car on a hot day while he went to work. The baby's temperature reached 106 degrees and died as a result. The surviving kids were taken to a local hospital. Both parents now face child neglect charges.
"I asked her a couple months ago if she had a babysitter and she said yes. So I just leave her alone, she has her own life, I have to take care of him and my own life,” said Phyllis Brooks.
Tollett's mother, Phyllis Brooks sat in on her daughter's preliminary hearing, and watched as investigators presented photos of the apartment, which they described as "deplorable."
"It looks like feces all over the ground, it looked like a dog bowl on the floor, a paper plate that looked like it had food,” an investigator described.
Tollett, is charged with three counts of aggravated child abuse and neglect. The abuse allegations stemmed from the death of her daughter. However, her attorney stated several times in court that tollett is not being charged in that incident.
Brooks said it's difficult to see her daughter in this position and hopes she learns from this.
"They’re going to have to put her in a home and teach her how to be more responsible and cleaning her house and taking care of her kids. Might need help doing all that kind of stuff,” Brooks said.
McCullough also faces a criminal homicide charge for the death of the couples 11-month-old, his next court date has been set for September 7th.
This isn't the first time the couple has been accused of child neglect.
Channel 3 obtained documents from 2012 that show the parents were charged with child neglect, but those charges were later dropped.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: Two parents are behind bars and charged with child neglect after police discovered living conditions they described as "atrocious."
Though, they couldn't go into much detail, a Child Protective Services (CPS) spokesperson said their history with the parents goes back at least three years.
They could not say how often they checked on the family.
Channel 3 obtained documents from 2012 that show the parents were charged with child neglect, but those charges were dropped.
A neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, said she was surprised to learn her neighbors kept three kids in a home police described as "atrocious."
She said she knew of the family, but says they kept to themselves.
"The only time you'd see them is when she was going to work or he was going to work, but they always took the kids with them," the neighbor recalled, "It's just unbelievable."
The three kids, ages 5, 2, and 10 months old, were intentionally left in a hot vehicle for at least six hours Saturday, according to police.
The youngest child, Kiara McCullough, did not survive.
When police arrived at the scene, they noticed bruises on two of the children and that's when they searched the family's home.
"Found out the conditions they were living in," said Sgt. Victor Miller with the Chattanooga Police Department. "We found that they were deplorable conditions."
Police reported one of the rooms in the home was "covered in feces and urine."
"It's sickening. It's sickening," said the neighbor. "Whoever would have thought that that was going on in that house."
The father of the children Travis McCullough was arrested and charged for criminal homicide.
McCullough and Jessica Tollett, who is the mother, both face three counts of child neglect charges.
The neighbor said apartments are checked regularly, so she's surprised the kids lived their as long as they did.
"I can't believe it," the neighbor said. "I mean we just had one, a safety inspection. I can't believe no one noticed the conditions of the home."
Police said cases like this can be tough to follow up on. They rely heavily on reports from the community and family members.
"So, what we do is we ask for the family members and community members that know about any conditions the child is living in that they do not think is a healthy environment or a safe environment to call the police department," said Sgt. Miller.
Police said they are working to see how many people knew about the home the kids were living in.
Investigators are not releasing the condition of the two older kids who survived. All police are saying is that they are "safe."
If anyone saw the family or the three kids at any time on Saturday, you are urged to call the Chattanooga Police Department at 423-698-2525.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS STORY: Travis McCullough is behind bars after police said he left his 3 children in a hot car for hours Saturday, leading to the death of an 11-month old baby.
A makeshift memorial stands in the parking lot of "The Buffalo Shack."
Flowers, bows, and stuffed animals were left by family members to remember 11-month-old, Kiara McCullough.
"It can all happen is a little as 10-15 minutes," Sheriff Jim Hammond said about vehicles heating up.
According to police, Travis McCullough intentionally left the baby and her 2 older siblings in a vehicle while he worked for nearly six hours.
Court documents show McCullough cried for help. A woman stopped her car to help, when McCullough handed her the baby and drove off.
She tried giving the baby CPR and called 911.
Caller: "He left her in the car. I don't know. I'm not for sure."
Dispatcher: "Is this your child?"
Caller: "No ma'am it's not."
Dispatcher: "Ok. Is someone with the baby?"
Caller: "I just pulled up over there. I've got the baby in my arms now."
McCullough's father, who owns the business where his son was working that day, told police he did not know his grandchildren were in the vehicle with the windows up.
The temperatures outside were in the 80's.
"If you've got a temperature outside of say of 60 and that car is sitting outside in the sun, in the full sun it can be like an oven," said Sheriff Hammond.
Court records show the baby's temperature reached 106 degrees. Her siblings were taken to a local hospital.
"There were two other children in the car who did survive, but had they been in there much longer in may have been a much different story," Sheriff Hammond said.
McCullough, who returned to the scene after police showed up, now faces charges including criminal homicide and aggravated child abuse.
The children's mother, Jessica Tollett, was also arrested when she arrived on scene, after police found bruises on the surviving children.
Police also searched the family's home and found conditions they described as "atrocious."
Both parents are facing 3 counts of child abuse and neglect.
They go before a judge next week.
Family members spent some time Monday night outside of the business raising money for Kiara's funeral.
PREVIOUS STORY: Court documents are revealing the circumstances that may have led to an 10-month-old baby's death in Chattanooga.
Police arrested the baby's parents, 30-year-old Travis McCullough and 24-year-old Jessica Tollett.
McCullough faces criminal homicide and aggravated child neglect charges. Tollett is accused of aggravated child abuse and neglect.
Right now, officers said the baby may have died in a hot car.
Flowers, a pin wheel, and a Minnie Mouse doll sit near where officers found a baby girl dead on Saturday.
Court records show a woman driving on Wilcox Boulevard heard a man yelling for help and pulled over.
That's when police said the child's father, Travis McCullough, gave the woman the infant and left before officers arrived.
Earlier in the day, court documents said McCullough dropped his wife off at work and took his three kids to his dad's business on Tunnel Boulevard.
Police said McCullough left his three kids in the car to work at his dad's business. Temperatures rose above 80 degrees that day.
Officers said they noticed signs of neglect on the other two children including bruising and cuts.
Investigators searched their home and called the conditions "atrocious." They said one room was covered in feces and urine.
The refrigerator and freezer were nearly empty. The mother told police they were running low on food for the month and would not be getting more food stamps for another week.
As the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office determines how the child died, Child Protective Services is taking care of the other children.
McCullough and Tollett are expected to be in court next Tuesday.
McCullough is being held in the Hamilton County jail on a $1 million bond. Tollett has a $300,000 bond
McCullough does have a criminal history. In 2012, he was charged with child abuse and neglect.
Court records show the charges were later dismissed..
PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga police are looking into how an 10-month-old baby died on Saturday.
Officers said they received a call from a concerned woman after 6 p.m.
Investigators are not yet saying where the baby was found, but they were collecting evidence at the intersection of Tunnel Boulevard and Wilcox Boulevard.
Police say this is one of the worst calls they can respond to.
"Many of these officers have little children and so, it's a tough thing to deal with a baby that has died and died out in the open. It's just a tough thing," Lt. Jim DePrimo of the Chattanooga Police Department said.
Lt. DePrimo said investigators will be working through the night to figure out what happened and if any foul play is involved.
Police said two other young children were taken to the hospital to be checked out as a precaution.
If you have any information, call the Chattanooga Police Department.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for more updates on this developing story.