The Knox County 911 Center has released audio recordings of an emergency call made by a Farragut High School custodian who discovered two abused children Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday the Knox County Family Crisis Unit arrested 36-year-old Jessica Ann Cox. She is charged with one count of child abuse and one count of aggravated child abuse.
The victims are two brothers, age 16 and 14, who live with Cox and their biological father in a trailer near Farragut. The affidavits outline accusations that Cox handcuffed the two boys on numerous occasions to the kitchen cabinets. She is also accused of burning the boys with cigarettes and repeatedly hitting the tops of a victim's feet with "a rubber mallet and/or wooden rolling pin."
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the two boys were handcuffed together when they managed to escape their home. The boys ultimately found a helping hand at Farragut High School from custodian Richard Huff.
Huff called 911 at exactly 7:02 a.m. and told dispatchers about the abusive situation.
"This is Richard Huff. I'm here at Farragut High School. I've got two
little boys here. One of them is 16. The other one is 14. They are
handcuffed together. Their parents have handcuffed them together.
They have run, I guess what you would say, run away from home," said Huff to dispatchers.
The dispatcher tells Huff to ask the children what their names are. At that point Huff hands the phone to the 16-year-old victim. The victim then tells the dispatcher his name and age along with his younger brother's name and age. 10News did not air this portion of the audio recording in order to protect the identities of the victims by not broadcasting their names and/or voices.
The conversation becomes uncomfortable when the dispatcher asks the victim, "Where do you live?"
The 16-year-old hesitantly replies, "Uh, what do you mean?... Like address?... Do I have to give that to you?"
The dispatcher says, "Well, either me or the officer that comes your way."
The victim then says, "I mean, are they going to take us there?"
At that point Huff quickly takes the phone and speaks to the dispatcher.
"Hey, sir. They don't want to go back home, okay," said Huff. "That's the only reason why they are here. They wanted to come somewhere safe. If you could get an officer out here..."
The dispatcher then makes it clear to Huff that he understands the situation, tells Huff "that's fine" as far as the boys not going home, and indicates an officer will be sent to the high school.
Huff tells the 911 Center he will wait with the two boys at the Memorial Gardens at Farragut High School until the officer arrives, thanks the dispatcher, and the call ends.
Later that day, Cox was arrested and charged with child abuse and aggravated child abuse.
The two victims received medical treatment at Children's Hospital in Knoxville and are under the guardianship of extended family members. The family has requested privacy during medical treatment and is not providing updates on the boys' physical conditions.
Cox's Step-Mother Status Clarified
Since coverage of this abuse case began on Tuesday, there were some conflicting accounts of Cox's exact relationship with the two victims and their biological father. Although she was frequently referred to many as the victims' stepmother, confusion stemmed from the fact that Cox does not share the same surname as the victims and their biological father.
On Thursday the Knox County Clerk confirmed to 10News that Jessica Ann Cox married the victims' biological father on March 15, 2010. The clerk clarified that she kept the name Cox, which is her married name from a previous marriage. She married her previous spouse, whose last name is Cox, on December 12, 1996. The clerk indicated Jessica Cox's maiden name is Bauer.
Bond Questions Answered
Several Facebook users have posted questions to 10News about a seemingly low bond amount of $25,000 for Jessica Ann Cox. She was released from jail Tuesday night after posting bond.
When asked about the relative bond amount for Cox, the Knox County District Attorney's Office stated $25,000 is a normal amount for this type of crime.
"It is actually average or even a little higher than normal," said Assistant District Attorney Charme Knight. "The thing to remember about bond is it is not punitive. It is not meant to punish the person."
Knight said bond's main purpose is to ensure the defendant shows up for their court date.
"It is an 'appearance fee' and is set as low as possible while still being high enough to make sure the person appears in court," said Knight. "In this case the charges were brought before a magistrate and he is entirely responsible for setting the bond. When we are able to take the case directly to a grand jury, we can request bond be set at a certain amount."
Knight said the amount of bond can go up or down depending on how much of a flight risk the defendant poses. Determining factors can include the defendant's family ties to the area, local employment, criminal record, and other variables that would make them more or less likely to flee the area.
"It is not identical bonds for everyone who commits identical crimes. Meaning that if two different individuals commit the same crime, if one has no ties to this community and has a long and lengthy criminal record, their bond would obviously be set much higher than a person who lived here and has no criminal record. So those are things we look at when setting bond," said Knight.
Knight said the current case is still ongoing and would not comment on the investigation. However, she did not rule out the possibility of additional criminal charges in this case in the future.
At this time the victims' biological father has not been charged with any crimes.