Missouri couple accused of imprisoning 4 children in 'boxes' secured with plywood

Lester Mason
August 10, 2018

A man and woman are accused of keeping four children inside boxes "smaller than a jail cell" with no windows, lighting or plumbing at a Farmington home.

Police say they received a tip from a child abuse hotline and went to the home in Farmington to investigate.

Daryl Justen and Laura Elizabeth Cheatham, both 38, were charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child, three counts of second-degree kidnapping in connection with the incident.

Tuesday, outside the couple's Middle Brook Drive home, neighbors said they had no idea the children were allegedly being kept in such horrific conditions. It is alleged that Cheatham told the offender in charge of the clothing division that the uniforms, "Were for her kids".

When police forced their way inside, Cheatham, was trying to remove plywood that had been screwed on to the top of the boxes to free the children, according to charging documents. He had no information on a possible motive. Once investigators gained entry into the home, they discovered a 38-year-old Laura Cheatman removing screws from plywood covering the entrance to small rooms and children coming out from behind the plywood.

Bullock said the children appeared to be in "fairly good" shape and were taken into state custody. The children, initially adopted by Cheatham and her estranged husband, are reportedly now in the care of the government. Both are being held on $500,000 bond each. No plumbing. The kids might have used floor vents for restroom purposes, authorities suggested.

A couple has been charged with eight counts of child endangerment and kidnapping for allegedly trapped four children in plywood boxes inside a Missouri home.

Three girls and one boy, all between ages 5-12, were being held in "specially constructed" spaces that had no windows or lighting, police say.

"I've seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing this deplorable here in St. Francois County", said Sheriff Dan Bullock.

If convicted as charged, the two could face decades in prison, according to St. Francois County Prosecutor Jerrod Mahurin.

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