Investigators found family's home in 'atrocious'
condition after hot car death
infant died in a hot car Saturday evening on Tunnel
Boulevard, investigators found the family's home in what
they called "atrocious" condition.
One room in
their 13th Street Court apartment was covered in feces
and urine, there was only one bed and one crib and the
refrigerator was "basically empty with no food for the
children inside," a police report states.
child's mother, Jessica Tollett, told investigators she
and the father, Travis McCullough, had lived in the home
with their three children for about a year. The
children's ages and sexes have not been released.
McCullough, 30, was jailed on a $1 million bond
Sunday, charged with criminal homicide and three counts
of aggravated child neglect. Hamilton County Sheriff's
Office records show he also was charged with child
abuse/neglect in 2012, and with drug- and weapons-
related charges in 2007.
Tollett, 24, was charged
with three counts of aggravated child abuse/neglect. She
was also charged in 2012 for child abuse and neglect.
The two surviving children, who investigators
said showed signs of neglect, malnutrition and possible
abuse, will be taken into Child Protective Services
custody once they've been medically cleared, Chattanooga
police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said Sunday.
"good Samaritan" driving by the Buffalo Shack hot-wings
truck heard McCullough yell for help Saturday evening,
according to the police affidavit. When she got out of
her car, he "tossed the lifeless victim who was
completely unclothed into her arms and immediately fled
the scene in his vehicle," the report states.
child was dead when EMS personnel arrived. When they
took the infant's temperature, the thermometer read 106
degrees. Temperatures Saturday reached 89 degrees.
McCullough's father, Daniel Evans, owns the Buffalo
Shack. He told police his son asked him for $20 gas
money, and he told McCullough he could work at the shack
to earn cash.
Evans said he went to sleep for
more than five hours while McCullough ran the business
alone. He said the car's windows were closed and he had
no idea children were inside. He told police McCullough
had tried to come to work before with the children in
the car, but he would always send him home.
Tollett told investigators McCullough had all three
children when he dropped her off at work that morning at
the Walmart Neighborhood Market on North Moore Road.
Investigators aren't sure whether the two other
children were in the car all the time, or how they
survived if they were.
McCullough was interviewed
at the Police Services Center before he was arrested.
"After answering a few questions, Dad lawyered up,"
said Myzal. "It was not established whether he let them
out, they got out or left for a time."
know McCullough took the other two children with him
when he fled. Myzal said "he left, went over to the gas
station, got gas in his car" and took the children to a
family member, who then brought the children back to the
The arrest affidavit said both children
were dirty and smelled strongly of urine. One child had
visible bruising to both eyes and an abrasion on his
At the hospital, medical personnel
found multiple scars and healing wounds on one child's
back, buttocks and legs, including a mark that appeared
to be caused by a belt or similar object. The other
child was still wearing pull-up diapers and was
nonverbal. Results are pending for a bone scan and drug
When given food, both children were
"very protective" of the food, as though they had not
eaten recently, the report states.
investigators the family gets $649 per month in food
stamps, but they were running low this month and would
not get more money until the 17th.
She also told
investigators she and McCullough used a belt to punish
the children, but said she did not know where the marks
on one child came from or how he got the black eyes.
She also said the other child had not been to the
doctor since he was 2 years old, even though he had
obvious developmental delays.
Jan Null, a
research meteorologist at San Jose State University,
studies the dynamics of how hot vehicles can get and
tracks heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.
"With an afternoon outside air temperature of
approximately 90 degrees, the inside air temperature of
the car could have been more than 140 degrees," she
wrote in an email Sunday. "Objects or a person inside
the car in direct sunlight would have been significantly
Null said if the infant died of
heatstroke it would be the 19th pediatric vehicular
heatstroke death nationwide in 2017. Last year, 39
children died in hot cars nationwide, with none in
Tennessee, she said.
Sunday's charges come less
than two weeks after a Soddy-Daisy couple was charged
with aggravated child abuse and 15 counts of animal
cruelty. Authorities said they locked three children in
two separate rooms with trash and feces and hoarded
malnourished animals, as well as kept dead ones in their
Not long before that, on June 13,
investigators said a 5-year-old developmentally
challenged boy was locked in a room and harnessed to a
bolt in the floor of a home in Evansville, Tenn., for
The defendants in that case were
charged under the 2005 Tennessee statute known as
Haley's Law. Under the law, the charge of aggravated
child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment
becomes a Class A felony when it involves a victim 8
years old or younger or one who is "mentally defective,
mentally incapacitated or suffers from a physical
disability," the law states.
Class A felonies in
Tennessee carry a penalty of 15 to 60 years in prison
and a fine of up to $50,000, according to state law.