Police: Couple kept autistic kids in caged room

Police: Couple kept autistic kids in caged room

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by Anne Yeager and Michael Rollins, KGW staff

KTVB.COM

Posted on April 13, 2011 at 3:48 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 14 at 9:45 AM

VANCOUVER, Wash. -- A Vancouver couple is accused of keeping two autistic children in a caged room in their apartment.

John Eckhart, 30, and Alayna Higdon, 26, were arrested after police, following up on a tip from child protective services, went inside their home Tuesday.  The couple appeared in Clark County Superior Court Wednesday morning on accusations of child mistreatment.

Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said two children had been confined to a room in the apartment that had been turned into a cage. She said Eckhart was the father of the autistic children and Higdon was his girlfriend.

Police said they found two boys, age 6 and 7, in diapers in the home, in a room caged-shut. Two other children were also in the  home. They were all placed in state custody.

A police report obtained by KGW reported the following:

After a knock, Alayna Higdon opened the door. She had a baby in her arms. Detectives looked down the hallway and saw the arm of a small child coming out a modified cage where a door should be.

Higdon let officers enter the apartment. There was clutter throughout, with stacked boxes and garbage on the floor. The freezer had a bag of ice and minimal food. The refrigerator had one pizza and some Mountain Dew. The cupboards were bare.

Higdon was asked to escort police down the hall. She set the baby down on a filthy floor.

A door down the hallway had a hole in it which was slightly bigger than a basketball.

Inside the room was 9-year-old boy on the bed. Higdon said that child was enrolled in a school for children with ADD. The boy told police that he was supposed to be home-schooled but Higdon provided none.

The child described being kept in a caged room, and in response to a question from police, he said there was enough to eat.

Police saw down the hall, a room with a modified cage door which could only be opened by the adults. Inside the room were a six and seven-year old dressed only in diapers.

Those two children could not talk. Higdon told police that was because they were autistic. Asked why the children were in diapers, Higdon said they didn't know how to go to the bathroom. She then told police that she didn't like their attitude and they were being insensitive.

Then, Eckhart started to yell at the officers, telling them they had no right to take the children.

"What am I supposed to do?" he asked police. "Let them run around the house? What kind of (expletive) parenting is that? They are both autistic."

The children remain in protective custody. The judge Wednesday ordered Higdon and Eckhart to stay far away from the kids and their bail was set at $25,000.

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