A couple in Missouri has been arrested and charged with child endangerment and kidnapping, for confining four children in inhumane conditions inside specially built, windowless cells that were boarded-up with plywood.
Laura Cheatham, 38, and Daryl J. Head, 38, were detained by deputies of the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department, who responded to an anonymous tip on Tuesday of possible child mistreatment in a Farmington home in the state of Missouri.
When police officers and Children’s Division worker arrived at the residence, Head seemed reluctant to welcome the unexpected visitors and held the inspectors waiting at the door. In the meantime, Cheatham was witnessed unscrewing plywood from small rooms to release three girls and one boy, ages 5-12.
After gaining access to the house, authorities and the social worker discovered that the couple had modified two of the bedrooms on the main floor into four tiny “specially constructed” spaces that were “smaller than a jail cell,” with no lighting, no water access, and no toilet facilities.
“I’ve seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing this deplorable,” St. Francois Sheriff Daniel Bullock told reporters. “This is the kind of thing that happens somewhere else, not here.”
While the children appeared to be in relatively good health, police went on to arrest the couple before charging them with eight counts of child endangerment and kidnapping. The children have been placed in social care custody. According to the authorities the kids had been adopted by Cheatham and her ex-husband. Two of the four children are related.
On Wednesday, Bullock shared more details about the ongoing investigation, revealing that Cheatham apparently wanted to force the kids to wear specially made prison uniforms which she ordered while employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections. The jail attire was custom-made by the Prison Industries Clothing Division.
“Why would you order prison uniforms?” Bullock said. “Her boyfriend, 38-year-old Daryl Head, had worked at the BJC Behavioral Health as a counselor at some point. From what I understand he was a counselor to those kids and then they ended up together.”
As it is an ongoing investigation, the couple could face additional charges if more incriminating evidence emerges. Cheatham and Head are being held in the county jail on $500,000 bail each.
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