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Saturday, 16 March 2013 11:00

Parents accused of keeping child in cage

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A Missouri couple accused of keeping their severely autistic, 6-year-old son in a makeshift cage soiled with urine and feces was charged Friday with endangering the welfare of a child.

The charges come more than two years after an anonymous call to a state hotline sent authorities to the O'Fallon home of Victoria and Terry Smith. Their son and his siblings were removed from their parents care, but later returned, according to court documents.

St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar did not immediately respond to a message asking for information about the delay in filing charges and why the children were later returned to the home.

The Smiths, who have since moved to Elsberry, do not have a listed phone number or an attorney on record. Arrest warrants have been issued, and Lohmar said both are expected to turn themselves in.

Lohmar said authorities received the tip in December 2010, when the boy was 6. When police, paramedics and a case worker went to the home, the child's grandmother showed them to the basement, where the child was in a 3-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide and 6-foot-long crib covered with a plywood top and held together with bungee cords, tension straps and zip ties, he said.

The boy's parents were shopping at the time, and his grandmother was watching him and his five siblings, ages 11 months to 8 years.

The child was naked, sitting in urine and feces, Lohmar said. According to court documents, the siblings told police their brother was often kept in the cage and they fed him hot dogs and chicken nuggets through the bars.

"We certainly understand that any parent is going to have stressful times, especially parents with severely developmentally disabled children," Lohmar said. "But our view is that this was a completely inappropriate way to handle this particular situation."

When the Smiths came home, they told investigators that they fashioned the cage for the boy's protection - it was the only way to keep him from hurting himself when left alone, Lohmar said. They said they did their best to keep the cage clean and kept him naked so that he wouldn't accidentally hang himself with clothing.
Published in Local News
A review of a terrible case of child abuse from 2010 in O'Fallon, Missouri, has led to felony charges.

The story dates back to an anonymous tip of child abuse in 2010. When police arrived at the home named in the tip, they found a six-year-old boy with autism locked in a cage in the basement. The boy was naked and sitting in urine and feces. Police also found five other children living in the home. All the children were taken into protective custody, but later returned to the home.

St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar assumed office at the beginning of the year and made child safety a top priority. When he reviewed this case, he determined that although the parents may have felt overwhelmed, it was no excuse for the dangerous neglect they subjected their son to. The parents, Victoria and Terry Smith now face charges of child endangerment, but they are not in custody.
Published in Local News
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