Parents Charged With Keeping Autistic Boy in Cage Say They Were Doing Their Best (VIDEO)

autismIn O'Fallon, Missouri, neighbors are left wondering how they missed the signs after  a 6-year-old boy with autism was found locked in a cage in his parents' basement. Police say they found him there after an anonymous tip in December 2010, and his parents -- Terry and Victoria Smith -- are just now facing charges. 

According to KSDK, the cage was about 3 feet tall and 6 feet long. It was held together with zip ties and bungee cords, and the boy was found sitting in it naked in his own urine and feces. The Smiths weren't home when authorities arrived, but rather an older relative was there watching him and his five siblings -- all under the age of 8 -- who lived in the house as well. A sign on their front door warned of a "Severely Autistic Child in Residence" and said people should call to make an appointment rather than just arriving unannounced.

It's beyond horrific to think of that child having to live in this manner, and understandably people want to see these parents pay for their crimes. While charges were initially dropped, prosecutors said new evidence has been uncovered, and on Friday the couple was charged with one count of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child each. I don't doubt they did just that -- endangered this poor child's welfare -- but I still can't help but feel more heartache than anger here.

I know they probably don't deserve any sympathy. What these parents did was deplorable, but still ... we don't know what they've been through. Maybe the boy has run away before; maybe he hurt himself or his siblings when not contained; maybe they were just at their wit's end, and simply didn't have the education to know what to do and how to ask for help. 

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the couple told police they kept the boy there so wouldn't hurt himself, and they kept him naked so he wouldn't hang himself with his clothes. They said they knew it wasn't ideal, but that they were doing the best they could. Terry Smith told police he knew his son would eventually need to be placed in a group home, "but he was trying to keep his family together for as long as he could."

None of that excuses their actions by any means, but it does make me at least consider the possibility that they did have his best interest at heart ... as majorly messed up and horrifying as their means for carrying it out was. Most of all, it highlights the very real need for more resources, and more help for families who are raising children with autism.

What do you think should happen to these parents?


Image via KSDK

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Vegeta Vegeta

I don't keep my DOG in a cage. Confine him to a child safe room or a straitjacket/diaper combo or something. If there was human waste on the ground they were NOT doing the best they could. Jesus tapdancing Christ

Rando... Randomlady

They could have designated a room or closet or something to him where it can be easily childproofed and still have him wearing a diaper and maybe a full body pajama. The diaper and body pajama is how we prevent many mishaps in our house, we have a severely autistic child as well. And it is true that the child can hurt his siblings very easily. We receive calls all the time saying he hurt kids at school, and his is a class for kids like himself. I think they are just making excuses, or they just didn't think it through what they needed to do.

LostS... LostSoul88

Lets look up the sperm and egg donor in a fuckign small cage! They dont deserve to be called aprents. 

nonmember avatar Rory Gilmore

No, no, no. Don't even go near excusing the parents' actions. Don't even go near saying that parenting special needs children is difficult to the point where the only option is to cage them, to treat them like savage animals. The statistics on abuse and violence against special needs children and individuals is heartbreaking, and autistic individuals are highly likely to be the victims of exploitation and violence. Your article should have simply stated the facts, and followed with "Until we stop making excuses for parents, until we stop accepting special needs as a reason for abusing our children, this will, unfortunately, continue in our society. These parents must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." Period.

Zoe Montague

I can not believe you are defending those MONSTERS. Are you Fucking kidding me???? You should be ashamed of yourself!!

Jessica Rohloff

No excuses, no sympathy. Yes, the resources for autistic children need to be more, but there is NO reason for what they did. Sometimes there is no other side to the story, just abuse. Which is what this is! If they were that far at their "wits end" then the best thing for that child would be to have him in a group home. What message did that send the other children in the home? God forbid any of them ever have a special needs child, as this is what they've been taught to do with them.

Sherry Chick

I work with adults who have intellectual disabilities, many have autism. Some of them are a product of this type of abuse and neglect. The damage they are caused, not just by the abuse and neglect, but also by not having this child in an educational enviroment (i.e. group home, in home aids, ect.) will be felt years and years into the future. People like me will be responsible for them, people like me will be the target of their anger and hatered of life and human beings.
I feel no sympathy. Is it tough to have a child who happens to have a disability? You betcha, but there IS help out there and anyone who doesn't seek it out for their childs best interests is being lazy at the very least.
This child was placed in a cage with no clothes on out of convience for the parents. I hope they rot, although, they will probably get a slap on the wrist and be sent on about their ways to raise their other children. I wonder which child of theirs will be their next target for abuse, since their autistic child will no longer be.

Sharon MacLeod

These parents should be punished to the full extent. That is no way to treat a child. If you are not mature enough to look after your children, autistic or not, they shouldn't have them. (period). I am speaking as a mother of a child with autism.  You do not do this!!!!!!!

Rose Law

I want to know if they treated this poor child this way what about the other 5 children all under the age of 8. were they taken care of or mistreated also. did they take all of the kids or what tell the whole story and what about the older person watching all the kids why wouldnt they be charged also for not doing anything about when they were watching all the kids

Talisha Petersen

This is CRAZY!!! Two of my 4 children have ADHD. When I have any problems with them and not sure what to do, I go to the doctor and ask. My daughters doctor has given me great suggestions. Something as simple as find a support group. There are many resources out there in this world. All they needed to do was find them. Locking your child in a cage is NUTS!! Even if he was a harm to himself or others, get him medication, use a parents wrapping themselves around the child as a restraint. There is no excuse for their behavior.

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