Washington Couple Accused of Caging Their Autistic ChildrenJohn Cave Osborne
An unmarried couple has been accused of keeping two of their four children in a caged room of their Vancouver, Wa home. John Eckhart, 30, and Alayna Higdon, 26, were both arrested with child mistreatment.
There were four children living with the couple—a baby, a nine-year-old, a six-year-old and a seven-year-old. According to Vancouver spokeswoman Kim Kapp, Higdon is the mother of two of them and Eckhart is the father of the other two. The six and seven-year-olds were found locked in a room with a cage door which could only be opened by an adult. Each child was clad only in a diaper.
Police were following up on a tip given to them by child protective services. According to the police report, Higdon was holding the baby when they arrived. Down the hallway, detectives saw the arm of a small child appear from a cage-like apparatus where the door of the room would have been. The house was described as containing “clutter throughout, with stacked boxes and garbage on the floor.”
The freezer contained one bag of ice and “minimal food.” Their refrigerator housed a pizza and some Mountain Dew. There was nothing in the cupboards. Detectives interviewed a nine-year-old. (No gender was ever given for any of the children.) The child told the officers that Higdon did not provide the child with the homeschooling that the child was supposed to receive. When asked if there was enough to eat, the child indicated there was.
According to the police report:
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 couple appeared in court earlier today to face their charges. Are four children are now in state custody.