Florida parents charged with child abuse after police find son sleeping in locked 8x8ft room in garage

According to the police report, the Ferriters also requested that the structure only have a door handle on the outside “so if anyone was inside the office, they couldn’t get out unless someone opens the door for him from the outside”.

The handyman said something was wrong, so he contacted the Jupiter Police Department to report the incident.

It wasn’t until police visited the house about a month later – after the Ferriters’ 14-year-old adopted son ran away from home – that they discovered a small room in the family garage that matched the specifications described by the handyman, a criminal complaint indicates. The structure contained a small box spring and mattress with a gray sheet and a pillow.

When police found the teenager at school the next day, he made several allegations of abuse against his parents, including that they kept him inside the locked garage structure until 6 p.m. a day and made him use an orange bucket as a toilet, the complaint adds. The boy also told police he had to clean the bucket after using it. The boy’s statements, along with other evidence, led to the Ferriters’ arrest last week, police said. Timothy and Tracy Ferriter, both 46, each face charges of aggravated child abuse and forcible confinement.

Nellie King, the couple’s attorney, told the Washington Post that police failed to conduct an objective and thorough investigation. King said she provided police with “essential evidence” that was ignored. She did not immediately respond to a request for additional details about the evidence presented.

“In the criminal justice system, the temptation for a community to rush to judgment is tempered by the judicial process, a presumption of innocence, and the facts,” King said in a statement to the Post. “So what Tim and Tracy have been through for the past few years will be presented in court.”

Jupiter Police began investigating the family’s situation beginning January 28, when Tracy Ferriter called police to report that the teenager had disappeared, according to the criminal complaint. Her son, she reportedly told police, had run away from home on several occasions. The police report says Tracy told officers the teenager had ‘behavioural issues’ and was having trouble at school the night before, which is why she believed he had run away.

Two days later, the police returned to the Ferriters’ home to ask if the child had returned. Tracy agreed to let one of the officers into the residence, police said. While walking around the house, Tracy showed the officer the structure of the garage, which matched the description of the handyman, according to the arrest report.

Inside the room, the police report says, was a small desk with textbooks, as well as a folding chair. Above the bed, the ceiling contained a small home security camera, the report adds.

First, Tracy allegedly told the officer that the room had been built as an office. When the officer asked her about the exterior lock, she said the room was used for storage and later said it was used by “all the children,” according to police records.

Police said they found the boy on school property on January 31 and took him to the Jupiter Police Department for an interview. There, the teen shared he was locked in the garage room “a lot,” sometimes with the lights off, according to the complaint. He was not allowed to play with his friends or family and spent most of his time reading inside the room, the police report said. The rest of the house was forbidden, the teenager told the police.

The boy told investigators he did not feel safe at home and that his father would “get aggressive”. Once, the teenager told police, he was pinned against a wall and then slapped. The behavior “also happened a lot in Arizona,” where the family lived, the boy said, according to the complaint.

When he was not in his room or at school, the teenager told police, he was asked to do yard work until he was locked up again. The boy also told investigators that he was often fed leftovers that he ate in his bedroom. Police took him to a specialized behavioral health hospital for an evaluation, the results of which were not specified in the complaint.

Authorities then interviewed two of the boy’s siblings, who corroborated what their brother had told police, according to the criminal complaint. One of her sisters, who got emotional during the interview, told police that every time she misbehaved she had her phone taken away, but every time her brother misbehaved evil, he was locked in his room, he was ordered to do garden work or write sentences.

The teenager and the couple’s three other children are now in the care of child protective services, WPBF reported.

Security video camera obtained via a subpoena also corroborated the teenager statements, police said. Footage showed the boy being locked in the garage structure on numerous occasions, according to arrest reports.

Police arrested the couple on February 8. Timothy and Tracy Ferriter were released the following day. on $50,000 bonds, according to prison records.

The couple are due back in court next month.

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