Tennessee Girl With Autism Found Locked Up In Wooden Cage, Couple Charged In Crime

A couple was arrested and charged in Knoxville, Tennessee related to a crime against a 10-year-old girl with autism. She was said to be found locked up in a wooden cage and the couple who detained her are parents.

Global News said authorities were tipped of the girl's situation and they conducted a welfare check Monday at the home of the couple believed to be holding a child inside a cage. Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said in a statement when deputies entered a bedroom, they found a locked wooden cage with a mattress and a child inside.

"They did find a 10-year-old child in a makeshift cage, like a wooden pin with about the size of a twin-sized mattress," Captain Shawn Judy told the media. "That's about four-and-a-half-foot tall by 72 by a little over three-feet."

Five more people were at the home aside from the child. Two of them were identified as the parents of the girl, 69-year-old Mickey Sparks and 43-year-old Patricia Laws. They were charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect.

As for the condition of the home where the child was found, authorities said they found feces on the kitchen floor and in the carpeting of the home. Dog feces were also found surrounding the wooden cage, USA Today reported.

The girl with autism has a twin brother and two other siblings who are1 3-year-old fraternal twins. The other children were removed from the home.

As per the court document regarding the case, the couple claimed the state Department of Children's Services approved the use of the cage in order to control their daughter. Deputy Jared Taylor argued when they spoke with a Child Protective Services supervisor, they were told there were no records about a locked cage being approved to be utilized by the girl's parents.

The couple is being held at the Washington County Detention Center. More charges are expected to be filed against them. Their next court appearance is on Feb. 16.

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