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Muzzled and waterboarded: Court documents reveal new details in NC child abuse case

Warning: This story contains disturbing details of alleged child abuse. Three adults face new charges in the case.

DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — Court documents reveal new and disturbing details of muzzling and waterboarding in a Davidson County child abuse case. 

The Davidson County Grand Jury met Monday, November 7 where Jonathan and Sarah Starr, and Shelley Barnes were served with a true bill of indictment, bringing additional charges to the case. 

Investigators believe a child who was found inside a dog kennel in Davidson County had been living there for months.

Back in October, the Davidson County Sheriff's Office announced three adults had been charged with child abuse and false imprisonment after a 9-year-old boy was found inside a dog kennel. That child and four others were placed in protective custody.

New Charges and Details

Jonathan and Sarah Starr are being charged additionally with felony negligent child abuse causing serious mental and emotional injury, as well as felonious child abuse inflicting serious physical injury. This adds to the already long list of charges, including felony child abuse, misdemeanor child abuse, and false imprisonment.

The court documents explain different instances as to why the father and stepmother are being charged. One instance says the father, Jonathan Starr, showed a reckless disregard for human life by making the 9-year-old boy wear a dog muzzle while being harassed and threatened with a metal pot.

Court documents explained details about the stepmother's involvement in this case and said she grabbed the child's head and yanked it backward, dousing his face with water as punishment.

Shelley Barnes, the child's aunt, is being charged additionally with assault on a child under 12 years of age, and felony negligent child abuse causing serious mental and emotional injury. This adds to the long list of charges including felony child abuse, misdemeanor child abuse, false imprisonment, possession of a firearm by a felon, and maintaining a dwelling place for controlled substances.  

Court documents explain that the aunt also showed disregard for human life by firing a gun to terrify the child who was running laps as punishment.

All of these charges, according to documents, resulted in severe mental or emotional injury to the boy.

All adults are currently in custody. Court officials said interviews are still being conducted in the case and new charges and arrests could be forthcoming. 

The child has been released from the hospital and is in the care of social services.

Davidson County Social Services has taken protective custody of all three children who were found at the home, and two other children who live there but were found safe at school.  

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