Related topics

Accused Parents Attend Funeral

October 4, 1997

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) _ Handcuffed and wearing orange jail jumpsuits, a couple charged with starving their 2-year-old son to death attended his burial Friday with jailers standing nearby.

Billy Gene Mitchell, 45, and Susan Mitchell, 37, who are being held in the death of Jeffrey Mitchell and near-starvation of his two sisters, sat side by side in folding chairs as pallbearers led the tiny casket to the grave.

The two wept quietly and Susan Mitchell began sobbing loudly when a vocalist sang ``Jesus Loves Me.″ She then collapsed, screaming her son’s name. At the end of the service she had to be lifted into a van for the return trip to jail.

An outpouring of public concern led to donations for the funeral, cemetery plot, flowers, casket and even the pajamas Jeffrey wore.

Jeffrey died from malnutrition in a home where investigators found little to eat save for some spices and cooking oil. On Friday, a county grand jury indicted the parents on charges of murder and wanton endangerment.

Mitchell said he had perhaps $50 to spend on food from his monthly $1,429 Air Force pension and did not know where to go for help feeding his children.

Their home, in a nice section of town, had decent furnishings, a VCR, golf clubs, two televisions, a computer, but no food. Court records show that the couple had a credit-card debt of between $40,000 and $60,000 and owed $10,000 more on their car.

Billy Mitchell told police the family had fed the children only water for the week prior to Jeffrey’s death. The two daughters are in state custody and being treated for malnutrition. Melanie, 3, weighed 16 pounds, and Billie, 6, weighed 28 pounds.

McCracken County Jailer Cliff Gill said it was his decision to allow the parents to attend the funeral.

``Even though they’re charged, I look at it as an expression of sorrow,″ Gill said.

Update hourly