The trial of Terry and Victoria Smith, who are accused of locking their disabled son in a cage-like structure, began on Tuesday morning. The Missouri couple’s 6-year-old autistic son was allegedly treated like an animal while the unemployed pair drew an annual welfare paycheck of $35,000, according to the prosecution. The welfare check was reportedly connected to the child's care.
Denying these claims, the Smiths, who have five other children in addition to the 6-year-old, are arguing that the cage-like contraption kept in their basement was actually a medical bed that had been given to them by the local mental health agency while they tried to source something better. The structure included metal bars covered by sheets of plywood which was held together by zip cords and ties.
The first witnesses to appear in the trial told the jury of the horrific conditions in which the 6-year-old boy was compelled to sleep. A nurse charged with helping the family care for the child said to the court that his skin smelled of urine and feces.
"His body odor was so unbearable because it was embedded in his skin,” she stated. She added that she had witnessed the child’s father, Terry, feed him a hot dog using a dog bowl. It was the nurse who ultimately reported the Smiths to the authorities.
The defense sought to discredit the testimony of the nurse by alleging that she only reported the Smiths because they had fired her, a claim which the nurse denied.
In a subsequent appearance, a local police officer presented a collection of photographs he had taken during a visit to the Smith family's home. A report by KSDK stated that these included pictures with the boy inside the cage. The officer testified that the bed’s mattress was saturated with urine.
The officer said at the trial, “I was in amazement of what I was looking at.”
He also said that the conditions shook him so badly that he had to go outside on two separate occasions to compose himself.
The maximum penalty the prosecution can achieve is seven years imprisonment. The prosecutor’s case described the Smiths as “adept and cunning” in their efforts to secure welfare payments.
Image courtesy of inquisitr.com