Mistrial declared in Mid-South child abuse case

BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A mistrial was declared today in Brownsville in a child abuse case.

Judge Clayburn Peeples declared the mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The jury deliberated more than two days in the case of a Gibson County couple, Tom and Debra Schmitz.

They were accused of physically and mentally abusing children they took into their care through private adoptions or foster care arrangements.

Authorities removed 18 children from the Schmitz home in 2004 and put them in state custody. The children ranged in age from 1 to 17 years old, and many of them were characterized as "special needs" because of emotional or physical disabilities.

Prosecutors have said the Schmitzes took in the children to get government payments totaling about seven-thousand dollars a month to care for them. The couple is accused of beating children, locking them in a cage and forcing them to dig holes for their own graves.

The trial began last Monday.

A new trial was set for July 18th.