A Tennessee State Trooper discovered four children between the ages of 4 and 13 in the back of a moving truck he stopped for a traffic violation on Wednesday in Madison County and arrested two adults in the vehicle on child endangerment charges.
Trooper Baron Cooper charged Joseph Howarth, Jr., 47, and Tressa J. Morris, 35, both of Euless, Texas, each with two counts of Child Endangerment (above age 8, a class A misdemeanor) and two counts of Felony Child Endangerment (below age 8, a class D felony).
Jose Cecena Manuel, 22, also of Euless, Texas was wanted for a probation violation in Fort Worth, Texas and was held for extradition.
Trooper Cooper stopped a U-Haul truck traveling east on Interstate-40 near the 76 mile marker for a lane violation. The three adults in the cab of the vehicle indicated they were traveling from Texas to Ohio. After receiving permission to search the U-Hall, Trooper Cooper heard sounds coming from the back of the truck.
He requested Trooper Dwayne Stanford, who is assigned to the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Interdiction-Plus unit, to respond to the scene to assist. Inside the cargo area, Trooper Cooper found four children ages 4, 5, 9, and 13. The children were in the cargo area lying on foam bedding and surrounded by the property of the driver and the children’s mother.
Trooper Stanford secured the children in his patrol unit away from the cold temperatures.
The District Attorney’s office was contacted and approved the criminal charges against the adults, who were booked into the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex. “A case like this emphasizes our ‘all crimes’ approach to traffic stops and illustrates how troopers are trained to look ‘beyond the ticket.
"Trooper Cooper’s instincts to search the vehicle possibly saved these children’s lives. He is to be commended on his actions,” said THP Colonel Tracy Trott.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services responded and took custody of the four children. The case remains under investigation.
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