Child abuse trial of Gibson County couple moved, delayed - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Child abuse trial of Gibson County couple moved, delayed

A judge agreed to delay the trial of a Gibson County couple charged with more than 50 counts of child abuse until next year after deciding to move the case to another county.

The criminal trial for Tom and Debra Schmitz was scheduled set to start Monday, but Judge Clayburn Peeples delayed it until Jan. 30 because he decided late last month that the case should be heard in Haywood County, attorneys said.

The Schmitzes were indicted last year on 54 counts, including child abuse, operating a child care agency without a license and trafficking in children. The state Department of Children's Services removed 18 children, many of them adopted and with special physical and emotional needs, from the Schmitz home in Trenton.

Widespread knowledge of the accusations in Gibson County was cited in ordering a change of venue.

"I was surprised because venue motions are difficult things to have granted," said Barney Witherington, Debra Schmitz's attorney.

A juvenile court judge found the couple guilty of neglect and severe child abuse in a civil trial in December, and left most of the children in DCS custody.

In the criminal case, the couple are accused of beating children, locking them in a metal baby crib and forcing them to spend hours in a dark cellar. They're also accused of forcing children to dig their own graves and telling them they could be killed and buried in the backyard and no one would care.

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