A Campbell County man, charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 3-year-old girl, is in jail after he was on the run for 24 hours.
Authorities arrested Joshua Comer, 33, of LaFollette on Wednesday, just a few hours after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation added him to its Top 10 Most Wanted List. Comer is accused of killing 3-year-old Gabriella Orton.
A special grand jury also indicted the child's mother, Amber Leann Orton (aka Rezentes), 29, of LaFollette on aggravated child neglect. Deputies arrested Orton Tuesday, and she's being held in the Campbell County Jail on a $750,000 bond.
"We won't take child abuse lightly in Campbell County," said Sheriff Goins. "We will do everything we can to prosecute the people responsible for child abuse."
When Campbell County deputies went to arrest Comer, he escaped from the back of the house on Whitman Hollow Road in LaFollette.
After searching for 24 hours, deputies found Comer in a basement of a home off Whitman Hollow Road Wednesday evening. Campbell County Sheriff Robbie Goins said he believes Comer knew the homeowners. Officials said he gave up without a struggle.
"We didn't have any problem making the arrest. No one got hurt. So that's the most important thing to us," said Sheriff Goins. "Everybody's going come home safe and we're glad to have closure to this part of it. I feel he's where he belongs and we're gonna make sure Gabby gets the justice she deserves."
The Campbell County Sheriff's Office teamed up with TBI, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Knox County Sheriff's Office, and several other agencies to catch Comer.
He is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment hearing Friday.
Investigators said Gabriella was brought to the LaFollette Medical Center emergency room on June 10 with visible injuries that indicated severe abuse. She died shortly after her arrival. Officials removed five other children from the home and put them in the custody of the Department of Children's Services.
Officials said DCS has been involved with this family before.
Comer is also no stranger to the Campbell County Jail. Since 1999, he's been arrested 22 time and faced even more charges, everything from reckless driving to child abuse.
Officials have arrested Comer four times for domestic violence, but every time the victims refused to testify against him, according to his arrest records. In 2013, court records show that a victim told officials Comer beat her and her child, but the case was dismissed.
He was also charged with statutory rape when he was 25 years old for having sex with a 14-year-old. The grand jury didn't indict him because of lack of evidence.
Comer has also pleaded guilty and spent time in jail for leaving the scene of an accident and evading arrest.
Gabriella's mom, 29-year-old Amber Orton, has never served jail time, but she pleaded guilty to using drugs in front of her children in 2008. The warrant said someone called police when they saw toddlers hanging out of a second story apartment window. When police arrived, she told them she was on drugs. Officers also saw a toddler running around the home with scissors.
Sheriff Robbie Goins and District Attorney General Lori Phillips-Jones said in a press conference Tuesday that two weeks of investigation led to a special grand jury this week.
Phillips-Jones said investigators and prosecutors have worked tirelessly with DCS caseworkers to bring the indictments forward.
"We ask our community to continue to pray for the families affected, and the professionals who will seek justice in Gabby's name," she said.