by: Dave Faherty Updated:
IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. - A couple, arrested and charged with child abuse, told Channel 9 their children were never in danger.
However, officials said the children were living in an unsafe home with their dead grandfather inside.
Investigators believe a 62-year-old grandfather had been dead for more than 24 hours before anyone called for help.
Sheriff deputies told Channel 9 their biggest concern is the safety and well-being of the children.
They said they found uneaten food on the bed of the deceased and they believe the children were the ones who left it there.
Melissa Poole and Jeremy Dishner are both charged with five counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
Investigators said they found raw sewage under the home and spoiled food inside.
They said the 62-year-old who died was Poole's father and grandfather to some of the children.
"As far as eating, one of the parents or other adults had directed the children to take food in there to him,” said Iredell County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Andy Poteat. “So neither adult had checked on him up until the time they had contacted us and realized what was going on."
Poole and Dishner spoke with Channel 9 on Tuesday night, saying they’re hoping to set the record straight after their arrest.
“Even a social worker said we did not abuse our kids,” Poole said. “That’s why they didn’t take our kids.”
Poole said her children often took food into her father’s room, but she would never have them do that if she knew her father had died.
She claimed they called police as soon as they found him.
As for reports investigators found raw sewage under the home, spoiled food inside and debris piled on the floor, Poole said her children had been sick.
“My kids had been sick with the flu, rotavirus,” she said. “It’s been happening for a month. There were things that haven’t been taken care of. I feel like I’m getting accused of being a bad mom for worrying about my kids rather than my house.”
Deputies said the contacted the Department of Social Services and the Health Department about their concerns.
"If there was reason for me not to have my kids, I wouldn't have my kids right now. If there was reason for the social services to be concerned, I would've had a report on me before this,” Poole said.
Channel 9 also spoke with Dishner by phone about the case. He also denies much of what investigators said.
"No, they were not taking meals into his room. Everybody in the house had the flu virus and the rotavirus at the time, which is why things had gotten backed up,” Dishner said.
Outside the home Tuesday, Channel 9 could see a sign posted on the door that said the home was unsafe to live in.
The grandmother of some of the children wants people to know her daughter is a good mother.
"Yes she has problems like everybody else, but she loves her children with all her heart,” said Melissa Hastings.
On Tuesday afternoon, Channel 9 also got a copy of the magistrate’s order, which says debris was piled up on the floors throughout the house.
The couple is scheduled to go before a judge next month.
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