My family has been going through a rough patch lately with law enforcement. My mom’s longtime boyfriend, the man that we have claimed as our dad. He has become such a part of the family and taught us so much over the years that we claim him as our dad. In October of 2018, we refused a search – he did not. My mother told them that if they wanted to search the bedrooms of my sister, brother and I – all of whom are adults, they needed to get a warrant. They had already searched the common areas and my stepdad’s area. The first time they ever came to the house, they said that they had no reason or right to search our personal bedrooms. We allowed the search in 2017 but under the advice of a lawyer, we told them to get a warrant. A few days later, they arrested my stepdad. This was the first of multiple charges they placed on him. Let me be clear, HE NEVER SAID NO. My mother said no. We locked our bedroom doors. We had the keys. He couldn’t let them in if he wanted to. But the warrant that was sworn out – it stated that he had refused a search.
My stepdad has been on the registry for nearly 20 years. He’s never been in trouble in all of that time. He’s never even had a traffic ticket. So there was some stuff he didn’t know. He didn’t know to report in after we got him out of jail. The result was them arresting him again on that and charging him with violation of probation again.
Dealing with these people can be traumatic. They have gone as far as telling us that if we don’t like our rights being violated – we should leave him. He couldn’t afford this house on his own – in July of 2017, he got the house and my mom helps pay on things as does everyone else. Aside from my stepdad, we all were in college. It was a practical way to live, at home and we had never had issues with it. We are the kind of people who go to work, go to school, go to the store and we come home. We don’t go out much.
During one of the many searches, they searched our animals ashes. Starting in September of 2015, some of our animals died from a virus. We lost three cats to the virus. All within months. September 2015; December 2015; January 2016. In July of 2017, we lost another cat to feline diabetes. And just last year, 2018 – we lost a dog to kidney cancer. Because it was never our intention to stay in this state – we had our animals cremated. We keep them in wooden boxes with a false bottom. Their ashes were in sealed bags. The probation officers came in and searched their ashes. Not only should that have been a health code violation but it was disrespectful to the dead and it broke our hearts all over again.
Having the animals where we had them, it was our way of honoring them. We have other animals that are still living – all of our current dogs are rescues. Two of our cats are and one has been with me since his birth nearly 12 years ago. When they come to search – we put them in cages for their safety and harness the dogs. They poked something through the bars of the cats cages and scared two of the cats so bad that they urinated on themselves. Our dogs, right alongside us were forced to sit on the porch. It was cold. My mom was barefoot and had shorts on. She has a heart condition. I was recovering from bronchitis at the time. None of us were dressed for the cold but we were kept on the porch for two hours in the cold. When we came in, the house was a mess. We had broken picture frames, some of my art supplies were broken. Drawers pulled out. This on top of the animals ashes being violated. They had flipped my brothers bed.
One of the next times they came to search, I had two safe boxes in my bedroom. This time they held us in the kitchen. One was empty and one had my knife collection. All of which are legal and are pocket knives. They asked for the keys which I had left in my jacket pocket on the porch. I went to retrieve the keys and I was escorted into my bedroom by three male officers. I stood at the foot of my bed with two at my left and one standing behind me. I was afraid to open the box with my knives so I asked if they really wanted me to open the box, when they asked what was in it, I told them it was my knives – all of which are legal. They made me move back while they searched my knives. I’d like to say something to explain just why this was so traumatic. A few years back, I had been stalked and assaulted in college. I don’t like to be touched or crowded, I also don’t like my space being violated. After their search, I had nightmares for weeks. It got to the point where I was afraid to sleep because my personal space – it felt wrong to me. I know that doesn’t make sense to most but it’s the only way I know to describe it.
I have had to sit at the kitchen table with my family while they search and have been forced to sit there and stay calm while a probation officer looks down my shirt. We all knew he was doing it but we were afraid to do anything. I’ve had to watch my stepdad almost hyperventilate every time he reports to probation because he never knows when they are going to arrest him again.
We were going to do something as a family but the area that the thing was in – it’s not an area we are familiar with. My stepdad was violated again and this time they violated him on the sex offender registry. The day before Thanksgiving, they revoked his bond. We didn’t celebrate. We spent three days waiting to hear something because they had him on a suicide watch. He’s still incarcerated. He’s lost his job and everyone pitch hits with the bills and such. They took away a member of our family and have made his life miserable because they say he’s a sex offender. He didn’t do what he was accused of to begin with. He took the plea deal because they told him that nobody would believe him, and when he said he didn’t understand his Miranda rights because he has a learning disability, they said he did understand and that if he didn’t take the plea deal, he’d spend up to 18 years in jail.
Because the public defender was not very good, he was afraid and didn’t have anyone to guide him through the process – so he took the deal. As we have been researching and reading, we find more and more cases in the state of Tennessee where they have done this to supposed sex offenders. It seems to be a pattern.
This has been ongoing and is still in process. There’s not a lot that can be said to ease what they’ve done and what they are continuing to do. I know we aren’t the only ones to be put in this position but in the moment when you have to sit there and you can’t do anything – it feels like you are being targeted. At the moment, we are being led to believe that because of who we love – who we live with, we have no rights. We have even been told that we are sex offenders. What kind of justice is this? Right is right and wrong is wrong and what’s going on is wrong. They’ve violated our rights and made us fear what they’ll do to my stepdad, and even to us or our animals.
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