RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - The mother of the woman at the center of a child abuse investigation in Raleigh said she tried for years to get help for her grandchildren.
Tammy McKinney said she was relieved when her daughter and son-in-law, Lindsey and Russell Smith, were charged with negligent child abuse inflicting serious physical injury and misdemeanor child abuse.
"I was thrilled. I have never been so happy to hear anything in my life," McKinney said.
McKinney lives in Dallas and says the last time she saw or spoke with her daughter was in 2011.
"I had seen some things even the year before that I was questioning, that I was not OK with, and that's exactly why she cut me off," McKinney said.
She said she initially liked Russell after he and Lindsey got married, but that quickly changed.
McKinney said that, before becoming estranged from her daughter, she tried to step in when she saw behavior toward the children that made her uncomfortable
"I would say things like, 'I think that's going too far. That's too much.' That was not well received," she said.
McKinney said Russell and Lindsey Smith do not have any children together, and that the five children living in the couple's Spyglass Way home are all from previous relationships.
"They were not allowed to talk to me. The few times that we did and we got caught, there was hell to pay," McKinney said.
Despite not speaking with Lindsey Smtih , McKinney said she tried to stay in contact with her grandchildren.
"It feels horrible. I've tried to do things through the years, but a grandmother has no rights."
McKinney said she was the one who called police last week after getting an alarming Snapchat from her granddaughter.
"She was being held at the house and she had been struck. I got a picture," she said. "I knew what was happening. I was livid. I'm still very, very upset and angry."
That phone call lead to an assault charge against Russell Smith, which prompted a Child Protective Services investigation.
According to warrants, it was during that investigation that one of the other children told a police officer about the abuse that she claims has been ongoing for two years.
The pre-teen was forced to spend years in extreme isolation and suffered "serious mental injury" at the hands of her parents, arrest warrants state.
According to warrants, the Smiths forced the girl to stand in a corner for hours, even days at a time, and didn't allow her to speak with any of her siblings, or anyone but her parents.
The abuse took place from April 1, 2016 to May 30, 2018, warrants said.
McKinney said the last few days have been hard on her grandchildren.
"They have received a lot of pressure from their parents, and the 17-year-old feels that it is her responsibility to make the younger siblings happy," McKinney said.
She said that, while she still has not spoken with her daughter, she's tried to be supportive of her granddaughter.
"I encouraged her to tell the truth — the whole truth. That's the best thing she can do for herself and her siblings," McKinney said.
The Smiths had a CPS hearing pertaining to the assault charge Thursday. The couple is due back in court June 27 on the child abuse charges.
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