O’FALLON, Mo. (KMOV) – A man and a woman charged after police found their 6-year-old autistic child locked in a make-shift cage in the basement of their O’Fallon, Mo. home were scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.
Victoria and Terry Smith were both charged earlier this year with first-degree endangering the welfare of a child. They were expected to stand before Judge Daniel Pelikan to enter a plea to the charges.
The charges came more than two years after an anonymous call to a state hotline sent authorities to the O’Fallon home. Their son and his siblings were removed from their parents care, but later returned, according to court documents.
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 on Half Moon Dr., 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.
Officers also found the couple’s 6-year-old autistic child sitting in urine and feces without clothes on.
The boy’s parents were shopping at the time, and his grandmother was watching him and his five siblings, 11 months old to 8 years old. Police said the grandmother was recovering from a stroke. She told officers it was difficult for her to take proper care of the children.
“We certainly understand that any parent is going to have stressful times, especially parents with severely developmentally disabled children,” Lohmar said when charges were filed. “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.
Police said other areas of the home were completely unsanitary.
They said door knobs to the children’s rooms were installed backward so they could be locked from the outside. The siblings also said they were rarely allowed to play with the victim, who they say was locked in the cage most of the time.
The children also told police they had fed the child hot dogs and chicken nuggets through the bars of the cage.