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Washington Couple Arrested: Kept Autistic Boys in Cage

A disturbing story out of Washington state, where a couple was arrested for allegedly holding two autistic boys in a cage-like room.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, John Eckhart, 30, and his 26-year-old girlfriend, Alayna Higdon, were arrested on April 12 when Child Protective Services told police that they were unable to get into the couple's apartment to check on the children.

Police in Vancouver, Washington say they found the boys "wearing nothing but diapers" in a dark, dingy room behind a cage-like door. Police say the boys shared a "tiny bed" and had received "little nutritious food."

According to KATU, police said Eckhart told them, "What am I supposed to do, let them run around the house and get into everything? What kind of f***ing parenting is that? How f***ing stupid are you? I don’t want them getting into everything, duh. They are both autistic."

Police spokesperson Kim Kapp told CBS News that Eckhart is the father of the two boys. There were two other boys -- ages 11 months and nine years -- found in the apartment. They were not locked up. Police said Eckhart and Higdon are the parents of the baby and that Higdon is the mother of the older boy.

Higdon, by the way, is studying special education at a local college.

All four children are now protective custody.

Jona Bronson, the mother of the autistic boys, said she gave Eckhart custody of the boys in 2006.

"When I decided to leave, he told me if I took the kids, he would either kill himself or he would kill me and the kids," Bronson told KATU. "And so I did what I felt was right for them but at the same time I can see that I didn’t, and I’d like to make it right.".

She said Eckhart is "controlling" and that he didn’t allow her to know where her children lived. She said Eckhart rarely allowed her to see them. She said she hasn't seen her kids in a year.

"(They were) treated like animals. If I had any idea, I would have fought harder," Bronson said. "And we didn’t live like that. We didn’t abuse the children. I didn’t abuse the children.”


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