KLTV 7 News obtained an exclusive interview with the couple accused of abandoning their child just hours before they were arrested.
The story begins Thursday, when Smith County officials found Jackson Lingard, 7. Officials say the boy was living inside a building off Highway 155 in Smith County. Authorities were serving an eviction notice when they came across the child.
Smith County Precinct 2 Constable Frank Creath says the child was living in filthy conditions. According to Creath, there was an overflow of waste inside the unit and they found drugs and drug paraphernalia inside. "In the process we located some drugs, what we believe to be drugs, some methamphetamine, other drugs that we're not sure what it is, a lot of drug paraphernalia, a large amount of paraphernalia you would use to distribute drugs," said Creath.
A dog that was found along with the boy, was taken to the Humane Society of Smith County. The child is currently in custody of Child Protective Services. The boy's parents are outraged about, what they call, an unfair eviction by Smith County.
Renee Lingard, 35, and Duane Lingard, 38, are in jail tonight, on charges of child endangerment and abandonment. The couple was arrested around 6:30 p.m. in Reklaw, about 50 miles south of Tyler. But just two hours earlier, the Lingards sat down for an exclusive interview with KLTV 7's Oralia Ortega, saying the accusations against them are all lies.
"My plans yesterday morning were to try my best to get everything out of that place. I assumed that they would take my stuff and move it to the side when I realized we didn't have any time and I had to take her to the hospital," said Duane.
Lingard says he and his wife were in the process of moving out of the building yesterday morning after their landlord informed them they were being evicted. Their friend, Rod, who'd been living with them for the past year had been helping them move.
According to Constable Creath, Rod had been released from jail that morning. Duane's response: "Yeah, he was a trusty and in the nature of the word that means trust, so I mean hey, how do you become such a bad person in an hour's time."
Renee Lingard says she has a condition called ITP, a blood disorder, and a tumor. She says she often has to run to the emergency room because of her condition and that's what happened yesterday morning before officials arrived. "Before I got checked in I called back to the house to check on him and that's when our friend told us that things were going crazy there and that we needed to get back because we just needed to get back," said Renee.
The Lingards say they've never been away from their little boy. "Knowing that Jackson wasn't with anybody he knew last night and he's never had to do that. He's a tough kid but he's always been with me or his daddy," said Renee.
As far as the drugs officials say they found inside the building, Duane says, "Whatever they said they found, it wasn't mine. I told them that I would be glad to take any test on my body. There was no crime scene. There were, everybody was running around. There were 25 people plus in there before they found something."
The Lingards say their only fault is having fallen on hard times and not being able to pay their bills. "I could say I want justice. I want to be compensated for all the grief. I can say that. I don't. I just want to be left alone and be able to pull out of this," said Duane.
Constable Creath says he can't press drug charges on the drugs because he can't prove they were theirs.
Oralia Ortega will have more on her exclusive interview with the Lingards on the 6:00 p.m. news, Saturday. We'll hear from them on why Jackson was not going to school and about Renee's run-ins with the law.