Lewisburg couple charged with child abuse

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

A citizen's visit to the Lewisburg Police Department, the concern of a teenager and proactive police work.

Those are some of the key elements in a scenario that landed a Lewisburg couple in jail facing multiple child abuse charges last week.

And, it led to four small Lewisburg children, from all accounts, escaping horrific living conditions.

It began on March 24. Michelle VanOrden, a 16-year-old whose name was redacted in police reports, went to the police station lobby to show officers photographs of an allegedly abusive situation and to tell them what she had seen.

Officer Mike Davis received the complaint. VanOrden provided Davis with a picture of a child chained to a bed and photo of another with a chain and lock attached to a bed frame.

According to police reports, VanOrden advised that while visiting with her friend, Evelyn Stevens, she asked Sanders where her two sons, four and five-years-old, were.

In reports, according to the VanOrden, Stevens replied, "chained to their beds."

VanOrden told Davis she didn't believe what Stevens' told her, so she got a look for herself. In fact, according to reports, she discovered Stevens sons in the bedroom they shared, chained to their beds just as Stevens had told her.

In disbelief, VanOrden took pictures of the boys to show to police.

After reviewing the pictures, Davis and Cpl. Tracy Teal visited the home of Stevens and her boyfriend, Andrew Roberson, at 527 Jackson Ave. Lot #3, to conduct a welfare check on the children.

Upon arriving, according to Davis, he and Teal met the 25-year-old Roberson, who is Stevens' live-in fiance, at the front door where the two boys' ran to the door to see who was there.

Davis wrote in his report that the boy's ankles were covered in dirt and that there were few minor abrasions on one of the boys left ankle. Upon searching the rooms believed to be that of the children, he observed two twin beds, both of which still had chains affixed to the frames with small locks on them.

According to reports, one of the boys picked up the chains and stated, "My daddy puts these around my ankles really tight, and it hurts."

Davis also noticed that one of the boys beds had deteriorated so badly that only metal coils were left for him to sleep on.

Teal immediately notified the Department of Child Services and Detective David Henley of the situation.

Stevens, who was not at her home when police arrived, was picked up from her place of work at IGA Priceless grocery store.

Roberson and Stevens were taken to the police department for individual interviews. Detective Henley later did a search of the home and found evidence of abuse.

After an investigation from DCS, the couple's four children were immediately removed from the home and placed in DCS custody.

As a result of the initial investigation, Detective Henley charged Roberson and Stevens each with one count of child abuse and neglect. They were booked into the Marshall County Jail on March 25 with a bond of $7,500 each.

On March 27, as a result of the continued investigation, Stevens and Roberson were arrested and each charged with one additional count of felony child abuse and two counts of false imprisonment. Bond on these charges is $20,000 each.

VanOrden has known Stevens for about a year and a half.

"I knew something was a little off because every time I would go over to the Steven's residence, the babies would always ask me for my food or drink," she said.

She went on to say that Roberson and Stevens' home was very dirty and that she did not think it was a stable place for children to live.

"I was once in this situation, and I got myself away from it. I knew it wasn't right, and I knew I couldn't do much. I knew the police could and would do more than I."

Roberson and Stevens are to appear in court on April 21.