9-year-old boy's parents and aunt arrested after he was found locked in freezing dog kennel with no shoes

The boy vanished from his stepmother's social media accounts after the arrival of the fifth child in February and was even cropped out in some photos

9-year-old boy's parents and aunt arrested after he was found locked in freezing dog kennel with no shoes
The boy vanished from Sarah Starrs' social media pages in February after the birth of his half-brother (Davidson County Sheriff's Office)
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If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

LEXINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA: A nine-year-old boy's parents and aunt were charged with multiple counts of neglect and abuse, after he was found inside a dog cage, according to a press release issued by the Davidson County Sheriff's Office. The harrowing incident took place in Lexington, North Carolina, where the 9-year-old was found shoeless and locked in a freezing dog kennel outside his family's home. The child confessed to the police that he'd been sent outside to sleep on straw since April because there was no space for him left in the 1,400 square ft house where his father, stepmother, her aunt, and his four siblings slept.

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The unnamed child's father Jonathan Starr, 32, is behind bars along with his stepmother, Sarah Lynette Starr, 40, and her aunt, Shelley Lucille Barnes, 56. Sarah was charged with 11 counts, including negligence and child abuse; Jonathan was also charged with multiple counts of negligence and child abuse. Barnes was charged with five counts, including assault on a child and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Her bond was set to $300,000. All their children, aged from eight months to seven are now in the care of social services. 

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The boy's father married Sarah, who was already a mother of two, in 2017. Her two little daughters from a previous relationship were younger than the boy in question. The couple welcomed their first son in that same year as well. The victim's second half-brother was born in February this year. The family lived in Paradise, California, near Huntington Beach, where both Sarah's family is from. Their home was destroyed in 2018 due to the devastating wildfire that ripped through the town. They, then moved to North Carolina soon afterward to live with Barnes, Sarah's aunt.

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The 56-year-old is reportedly a convicted felon with a lengthy rap sheet of 34 different arrests in both North Carolina and California. It includes charges of identity fraud and health and safety violations. The boy found in the cage vanished from his stepmother's social media accounts after the arrival of the fifth child in February. He was even cropped out in some of the photos. Sarah described herself as a mother of four and not five in her bio. The boy's biological mother lives in California according to Daily Mail. 

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Sheriff Richie Simmons of Davidson County in North Carolina told reporters that the abuse was unlike anything "he had ever seen". "I’ve been in law enforcement 36 years. This is the first time I’ve seen something quite this significant to be honest with you," he said at a press conference last week. "There was some clothes that was there, just bits and pieces, a little bit of food was inside, but not enough to sustain warmth for this child." 

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An anonymous neighbor called 911 shortly before 7 am on October 19 and reported a boy was allegedly locked inside a dog kennel in the backyard where he'd been overnight, according to the press release. The neighbor's wife later told police that he had once taken food to the child. Police found the boy in the locked dog lot. It was 28 degrees at the time. "There were some clothes but not enough to sustain warmth for this child," Sheriff Simmons said. The boy was so cold when police arrived that he was shivering and was unable to speak until he was warmed up by EMS teams. 

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