Stepmother accused of torturous abuse of stepsons

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Starving, battered and handcuffed together to a kitchen cabinet, the two teenage brothers listened for signs their attackers had fallen asleep as they plotted their escape.

"We had both come to the conclusion this had been enough, and we were going to run away," Austin McIntosh told jurors in Knox County Criminal Court on Monday. "We just didn't know how to do it."

For five months in 2013, Austin McIntosh, then 16, and his brother, Justin McIntosh, then 14, had been subjected to all manner of torturous abuse, from beatings to ice baths to handcuffing to starvation, inside a tiny trailer just off Canton Hollow Road at the hands — they say — of their father and stepmother.

They were, by now, "accustomed to it," the boys would later tell Knox County Sheriff's Office Deputy John Sharp, but stepmother Jessica Cox's anger had reached a level that Austin McIntosh said left him and his brother with certain escape, though dangerous, as their only option.

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