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Children found in diapers in rain
Mother, father charged with neglect

A mother and father were arrested and two children were hospitalized Thursday when officers responded to their home inside the city limits to find the children outside in the rain wearing only diapers.

The children, ages 2 and 4, were transported to Saint Thomas River Park Hospital to be treated for hypothermia. Their condition isn’t believed to be serious. 

Arrested were the mother and father of the children, Chantily Merrill and Shane Willbanks, both 24. They both face two counts of child neglect. Willbanks wasn’t at home at the time.

McMinnville Police officers responded to a home on Beta Street around 10:30 a.m. Thursday after a neighbor found the 4-year-old outside with only a diaper and alerted authorities. Merrill was inside the home.

“She was in the bedroom talking on the phone with the door closed,” said McMinnville Police detective Marty Cantrell. “The 4-year-old apparently pushed a chair against the back door and climbed up and was able to unlock it. Both children went outside and the 4-year-old eventually wandered to the front, which is when a neighbor saw him.”

When police arrived, the 2-year-old was found in the back in thick vegetation. Cantrell said it’s believed the children were outside between 15 minutes and an hour.

“They were both treated for hypothermia,” said Cantrell. “They were right on the threshold for exposure.”

As for why the father was charged when he wasn’t at home, Cantrell said investigators believe he had information the children were missing and did not report it.

The Department of Children’s Services is involved in the case.