Content warning: some details in this story and previous stories linked could be triggering and disturbing. Limited details and images are included describing a physical attack on a child. Discretion to sensitive audiences is advised.
UPDATE: The Elizabethton Police Department says two juveniles have been arrested and charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault.
ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Elizabethton police say they are investigating the alleged assault of a 10-year-old girl by other teenage girls that were her neighbors.
In a post shared more than 250,000 times on Facebook, the girl’s mother has been calling for justice. Friday, dozens of community members echoed those calls by gathering outside the girl’s home in an outpouring of support.
The alleged assault happened on Monday, when family members describe the attack as an act of “torture.” Photos show blood, scratches, and a swollen face on the little girl after the mother says she came home from playing with girls she thought were her friends.
Friday, Elizabethton police took a victim statement from the girl at the child advocacy center.
Police explained it is routine to wait a few days for a statement when a child has been a victim of intense trauma. Chief of Police Jason Shaw says a case this sensitive with so many juveniles involved takes time. He is not ruling out charges, though none have been filed at this time.
“We are going to make the appropriate charges, at the appropriate time when we complete the investigation,” said Shaw.
Shaw added his department must cooperate with the district attorney’s office, Child Protective Services and the juvenile courts as they move forward in the case. Investigators are combing through video and photo evidence that was posted on social media of the alleged assault. Shaw added now that they have the child’s statement, they will move forward with investigating what happened Monday.
“That evidence may be just as important or more important than some of the other things,” said Shaw.
The news of this alleged attack on the child sent the local community into disbelief.
“I was shocked, I was shocked and appalled that that happened in our town,” said community member Nichole Bennett.
Many neighbors and local community members found out about the incident on social media. Some of the child’s classmates also showed up Friday to support her.
“I was sad and I was mad at the people who did it,” said former classmate Sarah Cox. “I came out because if that happened to me, I would want someone to do that for me as well.”
“It just kinda shocks me,” said classmate Sydnee Taylor. “And I know my friends probably wouldn’t ever do that. But it just puts me in a state of shock how someone could do that to their friend.”
The alleged attack not only has children on alert, but parents too. Many said this incident reminds them to never let their guard down.
“There’s danger everywhere, there is evil everywhere. I think as a community we need to look out for each other’s children. Not just our own, but everybody’s,” said community member Teresa Stucker.
Friday the 10-year-old girl and her mother were overwhelmed by the love and support shown by the group that rallied outside their home.
It is a message these community members hope the family hears loud and clear.
“I have faith in our police department, I have faith in our community that we will come together, support you and make sure there is justice served,” said Bennett.
“That was just an awful thing that I would never wish upon anybody. It’s absolutely sick what those people did to her,” said Taylor.
Elizabethton Police want to reassure the community they are taking this case seriously.
“We just wanna make sure that we get things right,” said Chief Shaw. “We want to see justice, but unfortunately with this, it takes time.”
Editorial note: News Channel 11 decided not to show the face of the juvenile victim or release her name considering the nature of this incident. In previous stories, only the first name of her mother has been published. The child’s face and name are not shown in any WJHL News video.