SHERIDAN — A jury trial regarding alleged child abuse began in 4th Judicial District Court Monday.
Michael A. Tibbets and Donna Gifford are each facing up to 10 years in prison for felony child abuse charges. According to an affidavit of probable cause, the Sheridan Police Department began investigating the alleged abuse in May 2014. Those interviewed by law enforcement included the children’s teachers, school principal, pediatrician and psychologist.
The psychologist said the case was, “as severe a case of neglect as I have ever witnessed.”
An affidavit of probable cause alleges that Tibbets and Gifford refused to answer phone calls from the school district or would hang up as soon as they realized who was calling.
The affidavit further alleges that Tibbets and Gifford refused to let the children go outside.
“(The psychologist) recalls one particularly heartbreaking conversation he had with (one of the children) where she told him she first discovered stars in the dark sky. She told (the psychologist) she had never seen them before and thought they were beautiful. (The psychologist) learned that the children were kept inside at all times, told it was too dark to go outside (even during the day) and that they had to go to sleep,” the affidavit states.
The children were placed in protective custody and became highly stressed at the thought of having to live with Tibbets and Gifford again.
The affidavit also alleges that the children would show up to school smelling of urine, feces and mold. In one case, the affidavit alleges, Gifford told a teacher that she had been using duct tape to keep a child’s diaper on.
The children also exhibited unusual behaviors including digging through the trash for food and having violent outbursts.
Tibbets and Gifford, both Sheridan County residents, pleaded not guilty to the felony child abuse charges in March.
The trial is expected to last five days.