Missouri police say officials discovered four children on Tuesday, coming out of “specially constructed” boxes that were “smaller than a jail cell,” without water, lighting, plumbing or windows.
Daryl Head and Laura Cheatham, both 38, are each charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and endangering the welfare of a child, KMOV reports. Authorities said the children were adopted by Cheatham and her estranged husband, adding that two of them were related to each other but none are related to the suspects. They’re accused of trapping the children in boxed rooms secured with plywood and screws inside of their “deplorable” home.
St. Francois County Sheriff’s deputies, responding to a hotline call about children being kept in sealed boxes, discovered the kids, whose ages range from 6-12, in the home located in Farmington, approximately 60 miles outside of St. Louis. Authorities added that a strong odor of urine was emanating from the house.
Officials said in a news release that upon arrival, they were initially denied entry by Head, but eventually entered the residence.
“Once investigators gained entry into the home, they discovered a 38-year-old female removing screws from plywood covering the entrance to small rooms and children coming out from behind the plywood,” the release states.
With the constricted spaces lacking plumbing, police believe the children were using vents in the floor to relieve themselves through.
“I’ve seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing this deplorable,” St. Francois Sheriff Daniel Bullock stated. “This is the kind of thing that happens somewhere else, not here.”
Neighbors said they witnessed the children performing manual labor “frequently,” according to KMOV. One neighbor said the kids sawed plywood—the same material reportedly used in the makeshift cages.
The children are currently under the care of Missouri’s Children’s Division. Investigators noted that they appeared to be in relatively good health, according to FOX2.
Both Head and Cheatham face four counts each of endangerment of a child and second-degree kidnapping. Their bonds are set at $500,000 on each count, and further charges may ensue as the investigation unfolds.
[Feature Photo: Daryl Head & Laura Cheatham, Farmington Police Department]