Missouri residents Terry and Victoria Smith have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly keeping their severely autistic six-year-old son in a cage.
Authorities were alerted to what was going on when someone called in an anonymous tip to the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline about two years ago. The boy and his five siblings were taken away from their parents but later returned.
The cage that the boy was kept in was a converted metal crib covered with plywood and held together with zip ties and bungee cords. The Smiths claim that he was put in the cage for his own protection.
When the boy was rescued, he was naked, sitting in his own urine and feces, but had several toys with him and appeared content. It has been reported that conditions in the rest of the house were also filthy, according to The Daily Mail. The boy’s siblings told police they would rarely be allowed to play with their brother. They said that the boy was often fed hot dogs and chicken nuggets through the bars of the cage.
“We certainly understand that any parent is going to have stressful times, especially parents with severely developmentally disabled children,” St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar said. “But our view is that this was a completely inappropriate way to handle this particular situation.”
“That is just terrible and so hard to understand,” Neighbor Theresa Brightwell said. “Everything seemed normal, but you never know what is going on behind closed doors.”
“That child deserves a good life,” Brightwell said. “I would see him out here sometimes, but we just did not know. They should be in jail for a really long time,”
The parents were charged Friday with one felony count each of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child. Bail was set at $2,500 for each. The Smiths could face seven years in prison if convicted of first-degree child endangerment