Tennessee man dubbed ‘Octodad’: Questions and more questions

30 children with 11 women?  I think I’d take vows in some monastary some place!

Desmond Hatchett

Desmond Hatchett of Knoxville, Tenn., has 30 children with 11 women, according to officials and media reports. (WREG / May 18, 2012)

By Rene LynchMay 21, 2012, 1:09 p.m.

Just where is Octodad? That’s perhaps the most pressing question — among the many — pertaining to Desmond Hatchett, a Knoxville, Tenn., man who reportedly has so many children that he’s struggling to keep up with child-support payments.

Hatchett, nicknamed Octodad by various media outlets, gained considerable notoriety last week after WREG in Memphis posted a story and video describing his struggles to keep up with child-support payments for his 30 children.

To say the story went viral would be an understatement. It was republished, reposted, tweeted, shared and commented on thousands and thousands of times. We wrote about it as well on Friday. That story alone was shared more than 26,000 times.

One of the most common questions among readers who have called, e-mailed and commented on the story is this: If Hatchett is having trouble paying child support for these children, who is paying for them? Tennessee taxpayers?

That question adds weight to another question: Just how many children does Hatchett really have?

Hatchett does indeed hold the record for the most children in Knox County, according to Melissa Gibson, an assistant supervisor with the child-support clerk’s office. But she said Friday that she didn’t immediately have the precise number of offspring available.

WREG reported that he has 30 children by 11 different women. The TV station additionally added these details: Nine of those children came about in the last three years — and they range in age from toddler to 14.

Now, back to the “Where is he?” question: A man named Desmond Hatchett from Knoxville, Tenn., has been behind bars at the Morgan County Correctional Complex since November 2009 following an aggravated-assault conviction.

Dorinda Carter, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction, confirmed this to the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

The Desmond Hatchett in custody might — or might not — be the same man. (The man behind bars is 32 years old, and local media have said the Octodad Hatchett is 33.)

The math and the kids’ ages could work out if Hatchett was, ahem, especially active just in advance of November 2009. But still, it does suggest that the first question people ask when they hear of his case — “30 kids? Really?” — might also be the most basic question.

There is one person who could help unravel this potential baby-making mystery, other than Hatchett himself. And that’s Hatchett’s Knoxville attorney, Keith A. Pope.

According to Pope’s receptionist, it seems as if every journalist on planet Earth has been calling the attorney for details on his client. But Pope remains tight-lipped; he hasn’t returned repeated phone calls seeking comment.

As for who is supporting Hatchett’s children — regardless of how many mouths there are to feed — that’s a question we have asked of the Tennessee Department of Human Services. “It’s my understanding that he has 30 kids by 11 different mothers,” Human Services spokeswoman Valisa Thompson told The Times on Monday, but she said she is looking further into the matter.

We’ve also called the defense attorney who was appointed to the aggravated-assault case, Mike Whalen, to see if he could shed some light on the situation.

Bottom line: We’ll keep you posted.

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