Memorial garden created in honor of starved toddler

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A memorial garden has been built in honor of Clifford Dotson outside the Kids First Child Advocacy Center for the 9th Judicial District in Lenoir City.

CAC director Chris Evans-Longmire said work on the garden began back in September, when Roane County deputies collected money for a tree in Clifford's honor.

"And it kind of grew from not just a tree, but we wanted it to be a garden space that we could not only honor Clifford, but all of the children in this district as a result of child abuse," said Evans-Longmire.

The garden includes a tree, benches, a gas lantern and two plaques - one for all child abuse victims, and one specificially for Clifford.

Deputies said he weighed just twelve pounds when his mother took him to the hospital in May. They said Amanda and Matthew Dotston kept Clifford in a child seat most of his life and fed him only once a day.

"We shook our heads - we find it difficult to believe that you could be the parent of a child and each day you see this child, you recognize their needs and they're in pain, and they're looking to be held and they're looking to be fed and taken care of by the people who brought him into the world. And how someone could just walk past that on a daily basis, I don't understand," said Evans-Longmire.

She said Clifford's story has touched the hearts of many people in the community. Individuals and companies donated everything in the garden:

"We did landscaping, we did planting, we did a lot of the manual stuff as far as moving mulch around," said Jeff Guinn, operations manager at the Lenoir City Home Depot.

Evans-Longmire said she's hopeful people will reflect on Dotson's life in the garden, and said in this way, he'll never be forgotten.

She said the garden will remember other child abuse victims in future, although everyone hopes no other child suffers like Clifford.

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