Couple Allegedly Kept 10-Year-Old Daughter With Autism In A Cage

They called it her "safe place."

By Jaime Lutz

Police arrested a Tennessee couple for allegedly keeping their autistic daughter in a cage for nearly four years, calling it her “safe place,” People magazine reported.

Police arrived at the home of Mickey Sparks, 69, and Patricia Laws, 43, on Feb. 5 in response to a welfare check. When they entered the house, they noticed the smell of urine and feces before allegedly seeing the 10-year-old girl in the makeshift cage, which had wood panels and a wooden door with a padlock. 

“It’s almost like [she] was taught to feel it as a comforting area,” said Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Shawn Judy to People. “She was being taught that it was a safe place but there are limits to what defines as a safe place. You don’t put a padlock on a [safe place].”

The couple insisted that during a previous visit, the Department of Child Services approved of the cage. A spokesman from the department told People that if they knew there was a cage, they would have been required to report it. 

The caged child attended school, along with her twin brother and another, older set of twins. It’s unclear whether the other children showed signs of neglect.

“Right now our priority is making sure the kids are in a safe place,” Judy said. “We’re trying to get enough evidence, but that’s not our top priority right now. We’re working on the kids.”

The couple was charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect.

[Image: Washington County Sheriff's Office]

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