Tennessee Couple Arrested After Autistic Child Found Locked Inside Wooden Cage

Police officers from Washington County in Tennessee have arrested a couple after they found an autistic 10-year-old girl locked inside a wooden cage inside their home. According to Russia Today, the girl was found inside the cage in a deplorable condition and smelled of urine and feces when she was discovered. The shocking discovery was made during a welfare check they conducted on the Jonesborough residence on Monday after they received complaints from neighbors. After the child was found, officers arrested the homeowners, 69-year-old Mickey Sparks and 43-year-old Patricia Laws, and charged them with aggravated child abuse and neglect.

According to Sheriff Ed Graybeal, the girl was discovered inside a bedroom sitting on a mattress placed inside a locked wooden cage that “smelled of urine and feces.” When asked about the reason for keeping the child in such a deplorable state, the homeowners argued that the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) had approved the cage as a means to control the girl. The also added that they have been using the same cage for more than three years.

According to The Johnson City Press, on the day the child was found, deputies were sent to the home located on 151 Miller Crossing Road after they received a report that a child was being kept inside a cage in the home. The deputies first encountered the couple and asked them if there were any domestic issues between them – to which they said no. The deputies then proceeded to perform a welfare check at the end of which they found the 10-year-old child which was later confirmed to be autistic. According to the deputies, they smelt a strong odor the moment they entered the home. They also noticed that there were fragments of ground up feces on the kitchen’s tile floor and in the carpet through the rest of the house. They also came across two boys in the kitchen when the proceeded further inside.

The officers then walked into a bedroom which had a wooden cage. The cage did not have a top – but was padlocked. Inside the cage, they noticed a girl lying on a small mattress. In court documents, the officers noted that the child did not appear to be in distress. When asked about the child, the couple reiterated that she was kept inside the cage so that they were able to control her more effectively. Patricia referred to the bedroom as a safe room. The couple confirmed that the child slept in the same room at night and that the DCS had approved the caged area.

An excerpt from the court document read the following.

“Mickey Sparks also advised DCS had been to the residence on numerous occasions and they were aware of the caged area for the female child. Mickey advised he has surveillance cameras inside and outside the property,” including a camera focused on the caged area”.

When officers tried to verify the couple’s version of the story with Child Protective Services supervisor Karen Thompson about the situation she revealed that there were several referrals in the family’s history. However, there were no records to indicate a locked cage was approved for the child.Sparks and Laws were both arraigned in Washington County General Sessions Court on Tuesday. Judge Don Arnold read aloud Sparks’ and Laws’ charges during two separate hearings, as both appeared puzzled when Arnold asked if they understood the charges.

Sparks and Laws are currently being held in the Washington County Detention Center on $50,000 bonds. They are scheduled to appear in court on February 16.

[Featured Image By Washington County Sheriff’s Office]