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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.
Saturday, 16 March 2013 11:00
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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A body found in the Little River in eastern Tennessee has been identified as a Missouri man last heard from in February.

Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong said Friday that the cause of death for 29-year-old Lance Michael Larson O'Fallon, Mo., remains under investigation.

Berrong said investigators are searching for O'Fallon's tan 2003 Kia Spectra, 4-door, with a Missouri registration CF1S9R.

Larson traveled to Lynchburg, Va., in February from his home in O'Fallon, Mo. Berrong said his last known contact with family was around Feb. 20, when he told his parents he was headed back to Missouri. It is not known why Larson was in the Rockford area.

Larson's body was found in the Little River Thursday downstream from the Roddy Branch boat access area in Rockford.
Saturday, 16 March 2013 10:58
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Patriot Coal Corp. has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to modify collective bargaining agreements with the United Mine Workers of America, allowing the coal company to cut health care coverage for retired miners.

St. Louis-based Patriot said in the filing on Thursday that the action is necessary to save more than 4,000 jobs. Patriot also seeks to change wages, benefits and work rules for existing workers in an effort to make the company more competitive.

Union leaders have been anticipating the move for some time, holding protests in St. Louis last month that drew more than 1,000 people. UMWA President Cecil Roberts says the loss of benefits would cause financial ruin and threaten the health for thousands of retirees.

Patriot filed for bankruptcy in July.
Friday, 15 March 2013 15:57
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HANNIBAL, Mo. (AP) — Officials in Hannibal now say foul play is not suspected in the death of a man found at a hotel.

The body of 63-year-old Howard Miller was discovered Wednesday morning at the Best Way Inn, just a few blocks from the Mark Twain historic sites in the northeast Missouri town.

The Hannibal Courier-Post reports that the cause of death remains a mystery after a preliminary autopsy. Marion County Coroner Darrell McCoy says it may be several weeks before the cause is known.
Friday, 15 March 2013 15:56
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