Family Crimes

Missouri Couple Allegedly Locked Kids Up, Made Them Wear Tiny Prison Uniforms

Laura Cheatham and Daryl Justen Head allegedly kept the children in rooms smaller than prison cells with no access to light, food or toilets.

A Missouri couple is accused of locking their kids up in tiny prison cell-like rooms, with no windows or lighting or bathroom facilities, and ordering them child-sized jail outfits made in a real prison.

Laura Cheatham and Daryl Justen Head, both 38, from Farmington, were arrested on Thursday after St. Francois County Sheriff's Deputies received a tip about the children being locked in the home, in rooms shut with wood and screws. When they arrived at the house, Head was hesitant to open the door, according to the Daily Journal in Park Hills, Missouri. While they spoke to Head, deputies saw Cheatham through the open door unscrewing plywood from small rooms, and children emerging.

There were no windows or lights in the room, police said, and it smelled like urine. The kids' rooms were two bedrooms modified into four and were "smaller than a jail cell," deputies said. There was no water or toilets in the rooms.

The children, three girls and a boy ranging in age from 5 to 12, were put into protective custody, according to CBS News.

The children were not the couple's offspring, but were actually adopted by Cheatham and her former husband. It was unclear how long the children had been locked up, deputies said.

Cheatham previously worked for the Missouri Department of Corrections, but she recently resigned, St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock told the Daily Journal.

He said Cheatham ordered kid's uniforms through the clothing division in the prison. She told the person in charge of the uniforms that she signed off on the work and it was for her kids. The uniforms and the patterns are now evidence with the sheriff's department.

"I've seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing this deplorable," Bullock said. "This is the kind of thing that happens somewhere else, not here."

The couple was charged with four counts of both endangering the welfare of a child and four counts of second-degree kidnapping. They're both being held on a $500,000 bond. They may face more charges, authorities said, as the investigation continues.

[Photos: St. Francois County Sheriff's Office]

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