Johnny Monday Rhodes and his wife, Sharon Marie Smith, in court
A Claiborne County couple accused in the death of a family member with physical and mental disabilities have pleaded not guilty.
Johnny Monday Rhodes and his wife, Sharon Marie Smith, of New Tazewell are charged with first-degree murder and physical abuse and gross neglect of an impaired adult. They were arrested in July after the death of Rhodes' uncle, Arville Rhodes.
Investigators say Arville Rhodes died of dehydration, starvation, bilateral bronchopneumonia and multiple decubitus ulcers. He also had blunt trauma to the head. The couple had been caring for the 63-year-old man, who had been physically and mentally disabled since childhood, since 2008.
The couple's son says his parents would never treat anyone poorly.
"Anybody that needs food they help with that," said Monroe Smith. "They've helped with churches giving out food, they've helped the hunger ministries give out food, they always helping people, both of them."
Smith said his parents did everything they could for Arville Rhodes.
"They were good to the man. The man come there wanting to live with them, begged her to get power of attorney over him," he said.
""If we need anything all we gotta do is call them and they help us," said Yolando Smith, Monroe's wife.
Assistant District Attorney General Jared Effler declined to comment following Monday's arraignment. The Smiths plan to stand up for their parents every step of the way.
"I don't think it's right, because they'd help anybody they could help."
Rhodes and Smith were assigned public defenders and entered their pleas.
They will remain in custody with a $250,000 bond. They are due back in court on September 17.