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Crime News Family Crimes

Florida Parents Allegedly Tortured, ‘Caged’ Teen In Garage For Stealing Cookies

Timothy Ferriter and Tracy Ferriter allegedly confined their teenage son to a tiny enclosure in their garage, which was dead-bolted from the outside.

By Dorian Geiger

A Florida couple is accused of locking their teenage son in a garage enclosure the size of a prison cell for up to 18 hours a day and abusing him.

Timothy Ferriter, 46, and Tracy Ferriter, 46, allegedly whipped their 14-year-old child with a jump rope, spit in his face, forced him to urinate in a bucket and repeatedly locked him in an 8-foot-by-8-foot makeshift cage, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com

The couple was arrested on false imprisonment and aggravated child abuse charges on Tuesday related for the illegal confinement and torture of their son, whom they reported missing last month.

Tracy Ferriter originally reported her son missing to Jupiter Police on Jan. 28 after he didn’t come home from school. She told police her son had “behavioral problems” and had previously run away on “several occasions.” 

Timothy Tracy Ferriter Pd

Two days later, investigators located the child near a local middle school he attended. The unidentified minor told detectives he’d run away after becoming suicidal and “fearful” for his well-being — and pleaded with detectives to arrest him in order to avoid returning to his parents' house.

“He would rather be in prison than be back home,” Det. Andrew Sharp wrote in the case’s probable cause affidavit. 

The child, who said he was barred from entering the main part of his parents’ home, claimed he was routinely and forcibly confined to the garage structure — which was dead-bolted from the outside — for lengthy periods of time. 

The child said he was freed from the enclosure each morning to attend school but was forced back into the dead-bolted room after classes. When asked how much time he spent in the 8x8 enclosure, the boy stated, “a lot.” He claimed the longest he’d been locked in was between 16 and 18 hours. 

The door to the structure was found to have only one doorknob, and could only be opened from the outside. The sole light switch was also on the outside of the structure. Inside, authorities allegedly found a child’s mattress, a desk, a folding chair, "small children's books" and a surveillance camera. The  walls were bare, unpainted drywall.

The couple’s son was allegedly forbidden from eating meals with his family and was typically fed leftovers. He was often prohibited from socializing with his two sisters, who occupied normal rooms inside the family’s household. The minor said he spent most of his time reading books in isolation, though the parents let him out to do yard work for them.

“I feel like no one loves me,” he told law enforcement.

The teenager also stated he was forced to defecate in a “dirty” orange Home Depot bucket in the room’s corner while locked in the room.

“When he uses the bucket, he is made to dump it out in the backyard of the residence and clean it out,” the complaint also said.

The child told investigators his father, Timothy Ferriter, had a “profane” temper and was known to be “really aggressive” with him. He recounted to detectives how his dad “slammed him against a wall by his neck and struck him in the face.” Other times, Timothy Ferriter allegedly spit in his son's face and spanked him with a leather belt.

The teen also reported that at the family's previous residence in Arizona, he'd been confined to a similar structure in the garage.

Thousands of home surveillance recordings, seized from the Florida couple’s home, further depicted the couple abusing their son, according to police. In one video, the couple threw the boy’s mattress against the wall, took all his covers, and locked him in the cell-like enclosure after he supposedly was caught stealing chocolate cookies.

During police interviews, the boy’s two sisters also corroborated the disturbing allegations of abuse, according to the criminal complaint.

One sibling, who said that her brother was “in trouble a lot,” described her parents’ method of punishing him as “extremely different” to how she and her sister were disciplined by the couple.

“They get their phone taken away or other restrictions however when [the victim] is in trouble, he gets locked in his room, made to do yard work, or write sentences,” charging documents alleged. 

When questioned by investigators, Tracy Ferriter initially claimed the 8-foot-by-8-foot garage structure was an office, then insisted it was used by “all of the children.” 

It’s not exactly clear when the makeshift cage was built in the garage, or how long the Florida couple’s son had been confined to the structure. A carpenter, however, who claimed he’d been hired by the Ferriters in December 2021 to build the garage enclosure, and had previously tipped off police after becoming suspicious of the family’s “strange” build request.  

The Ferriters had purchased a previous property in Arizona from 2014 until they apparently sold it and moved to Florida. The current owner of their prior home recalled to authorities that the realtor described that garage’s dungeon-like enclosure as a “bonus room; he’d observed a child’s bed in it before purchasing the property. 

Timothy Ferriter and Tracy Ferriter were booked into a Palm Beach County jail on Feb. 8. They were released on bond on Wednesday, pending trial, online jail records show. The couple hasn't yet entered a plea.

Nellie King, the Ferriters’ defense attorney, has since accused police of botching the investigation and ignoring evidence in the case. 

King, who insisted her clients’ lives were in danger, accused their son of seriously injuring family members and school classmates on numerous occasions in court documents filed on Thursday. 

“Law enforcement has an obligation to conduct investigations in an objective and thorough manner,” King told Oxygen.com in a statement on Thursday afternoon. "I made information known to the police in order to assist them in the fact-finding process, including evidence from Arizona where this family had lived up until a month ago. This critical evidence was ignored.”

King cited documentation from past teachers, school administrators, police, and doctors, which she said frame the alleged victim’s “account in an entirely different light”

“What Tim and Tracy have lived through the past many years will therefore be presented in court,” she added.

Independence Middle School, where the Ferriters’ son was enrolled, didn’t immediately respond to questions surrounding the parents' allegations about their son on Thursday afternoon.

An initial conference court hearing is scheduled for March 31, court filings show.

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