'It Broke My Heart': Police Officer Finds 7-Year-Old Trying to Sell Teddy Bear for Food

Police in Franklin, Ohio, charged the parents of a 7-year-old boy with child endangerment after they found the child wandering a busy area of downtown Franklin alone. The officers involved say the little boy was trying to sell his teddy bear in order to earn money to buy food.

“It broke my heart,” Officer Steve Dunham, who found the boy, told WLTW News. “He told me he was trying to sell his stuffed animal to get money for food because he hadn't eaten in several days.”

Before taking him to the Franklin Police Department, Officer Dunham took the little boy to Subway for a meal. 

“(We) said a little prayer and ate dinner together,” Dunham said.

When police went to the boy's home, they discovered that he and his four brothers were living in horrifying conditions. Investigators found a home filled with "garbage, cat urine, and liquor bottles."

The parents, Tammy and Michael Bethel, were charged with 10 counts of child endangering. The 7-year-old and his brothers, ages 11, 12, 15 and 17, have been removed from the home and have been placed with family members.

Police Chief Russ Whitman commended his officers for taking such good care of the boy.

“(Police) treated them like their own kids, and that's exactly what law enforcement does in situations like this. How would we want someone to treat our kids?” Whitman said. “Hopefully, these officers’ actions change these kids’ lives and maybe change the lives of the parents to become better parents.”

Dunham said that it's all part of the job. “[We] would like to go home at the end of the day feeling like [we’ve] done something positive and, you know, had some kind of positive impact."

The town's Victim Witness Advocate also praised the officers for taking such good care of the little boy and his brothers, and for going the "extra mile." She said, "We see sad cases all the time and sometimes it just feels like 'another day in the life,' but you all fed this little boy and his brothers and made him feel safe in the middle of a nasty situation. I can't imagine doing what you all do day in and day out. I know you do stuff like this for your community all the time and we don't see or hear about it. The way you treated and took care of this little guy touched my heart."