By Vera Culley and Anthony Kiekow
O’Fallon, MO. (KTVI) — The parents of a child with autism, who prosecutors said was found locked in a cage in an O’Fallon, Missouri basement, are now facing felony Child Endangerment charges.
Victoria Smith and Terry Smith of O’Fallon, MO are charged with felony Endangering the Welfare of a Child in the First Degree. The St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney’s office filed the charges after a two-and-a-half year investigation.
“This situation is something that is just not going to be tolerated,” St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said. “You look at the evidence and it is just not appropriate.”
According to the prosecutor’s office, on December 15, 2010, O’Fallon Police and Missouri Social Services officials went to the home on Half Moon Drive after an anonymous tip was called into the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect hotline. When officers arrived, they found a six-year-old child in a cage. The boy was reportedly naked and sitting in urine and feces.
“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.”
The child was being kept in a 3-foot wide by 3-foot tall make-shift cage that was held together with zip ties, tension straps and bungee cords.
“That child deserves a good life,” Brightwell said. “I would she him out here sometimes, but we just did not know.”
Five other children ranging in age from 11 months to eight years old were also found in the home with an older relative.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the home was cluttered and unsanitary. Authorities also found the door knobs on the children’s rooms installed backwards so they could be locked from the outside.
The children told investigators they were seldom allowed to play with the caged child and fed him hot dogs and chicken nuggets through the bars of the cage.
Victoria Smith and Terry Smith are not currently in custody, but prosecutors said they expect the couple to turn themselves in soon.
“They should be in jail for a really long time,” Brightwell said.
They could spend up to seven years in prison.
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