Police: Parents lock autistic girl in cage

A Washington County, Tennessee, man and woman were arrested on Monday, accused of locking a 10-year-old little girl in a cage. Both suspects claimed it helped them “control the girl.”

Johnson City Press reports that after an anonymous tip, authorities went to the suspects’ home found the girl inside a wooden cage that permeated a strong odor of urine and feces. Inside the cage, the little girl had a small mattress, the only thing to keep her company.

According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Patricia Laws, 43, the child’s stepmother, allowed authorities in the home, but denied any allegations of abuse. As Deputy Jared Taylor and Deputy Michael Garmer walked through the home, they noted two young boys inside, standing in the kitchen, close to a pile of feces. The deputies noticed the feces was trekked throughout the carpet in the home.

When the officers walked to a bedroom, they saw a wooden cage inside, padlocked at the top. A little girl, 10, was inside the case on a small mattress. The officers noticed that the little didn’t seem distressed, but she was clearly unkempt. Laws, who called the cage a “safe room,” told the detectives that they keep the girl inside the cage because “the child was autistic and they were able to control the child better by locking her up.”

Mickey Sparks, 69, the child’s father, and an older girl entered the home shortly after. Sparks immediately told detectives that the Texas Department of Children’s Services (DCS) knew about the cage and allowed them to keep the little girl in there. This was later proven to be false.

“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,” the police report read.

DCS came to the residence and removed all of the children from home, including two boys, an older teen girl, and the 10-year-old girl. Both Laws and Sparks were arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect. They’re behind bars on a $50,000 each, at the Washington County Detention Center.

[Feature Photo: Washington County Sheriff’s Office]