Breaking News
More () »

Evidence 'voluminous' as prosecution begins abuse case against Roane County couple, son

The Grays are accused of abusing their adoptive children for years, killing two of them, in Roane and Knox counties.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — A Knox County man was arraigned Friday on charges he murdered his adoptive son, while his wife's court appearance is being delayed because she's been exposed to COVID-19.

Michael A. Gray Sr. appeared briefly with defense attorney Robert Kurtz before Knox County Criminal Court Judge Scott Green. Gray Sr. is in custody.

Evidence gathered in the protracted child abuse case against him, his wife, Shirley Gray, and his son Michael A. Gray Jr., is "voluminous," authorities said Thursday.

A Knox County grand jury indicted the Grays this month on charges that include murder in the death of Jonathan Gray in 2015 or 2016. Jonathan was no more than age 8 at the time.

Jonathan's remains were found in May in the yard of the Halls home where Gray Jr. lived. Michael Gray Sr. and Shirley Gray also lived there until they moved to Roane County in 2016 with several of their  adoptive children. By then, Jonathan had been buried in the yard, authorities say.

Authorities allege all three of the Grays abused the elder Grays' adoptive children, keeping them confined in the basement and feeding them a sparse diet. In Roane County, the elder Grays are charged in a separate murder case, that of an adoptive child named Sophie whose remains were found buried on family property in May in the Ten Mile community.

Shirley Gray was supposed to appear Thursday on the Knox County charges, but she's been exposed to COVID-19 so she's in quarantine.

The judge said Thursday he wanted the three defendants to come to court Nov. 20 so he can begin preparing a schedule for prosecution.  Shirley Gray can be arraigned at that point.

Prosecutors said the evidence gathered by Knox County investigators is "voluminous" 

PREVIOUS STORY: A Roane County couple charged with abusing and killing an adopted child now face similar charges in Knox County, plus charges of Tenncare fraud and theft.

Michael Anthony Gray Sr. and Shirley Gray were initially charged after the body of Sophie Gray, an adopted daughter, was found on their property in Ten Mile. Other adopted children in the home said they'd faced years of abuse, including being caged and malnourished. They have since pleaded not guilty to those charges.

After that, authorities searched their previous home in Powell, where their son Michael Anthony Gray Jr still lived. The body of an adopted son, Jonathan Gray, was found on that property.

Gray Jr. was charged with felony murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect and abuse of a corpse.

Now, the elder Grays are also charged in Knox County with felony murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, abuse of a corpse, Tenncare fraud and theft.

Shirley Gray and Michael Gray Jr. are due in Criminal Court on Thursday. Michael Gray Sr. is due in court Friday.

A state senator said the Grays collected $36,000 a year in payments from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. Sen. Ken Yager asked that authorities to look into the financial aspect of this crime.

Michael Anthony Gray Sr. and Shirley Gray are in custody in Roane County. Gray Jr. is being held in the Knox County Detention Facility.


Knox County authorities recovered the remains of Jonathan Gray at a home on Cedarbreeze Road in Powell once owned by the elder Grays. Gray Jr. later lived there. The house has since changed hands.

Jonathan was the adoptive son of Michael and Shirley Gray. He's believed to have died while in the Grays' care at the home in 2015 or 2016.

For a time, records show, the elder Grays and their children shared the Cedarbreeze home with Michael Gray Jr.

Evidence recovered during the investigation in May shows the adoptive children were subjected to abuse while they lived at the Powell home, according to records. Evidence suggests Anthony Gray, also known as "Bubba", knew it was going on.

One of the Gray children, a 15-year-old boy, told Knox County authorities in May that he'd been kept in a small room and in a cage in the lower level of the Halls home. He told them the other children also had been abused and confined at the Halls home.

The children suffered extended periods of malnourishment, records state.

At some point, he said, Jonathan became sick and disappeared from the house, never to be seen again, the warrant return states. He said his parents told him Jonathan had gone away to live with another family.

In 2016, the elder Grays moved to Roane County with their adoptive children. In 2017, another of those children died while in their care and was buried on their property in the Ten Mile community. 

Investigators said the couple locked two boys in their basement, forcing one into isolation for four years. Warrants say they fed their grade-school age children a starvation diet of "light bread and water."