LARAMIE, Wyo. (CBS4) – A mother and her boyfriend have been arrested and are facing charges related to a child abuse investigation where a boy was allegedly kept in a cage outside.
Jana Harman, the 7-year-old boy’s mother, and Alexander Smith have been charged with child abuse and felonious restraint.
On the night of July 23 a tip led deputies with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office in Wyoming to Fox Creek Road near Laramie. They used night-vision scopes to try to find a boy reportedly locked up behind a camper in a rural area of the county. The next morning deputies found him locked in a cage of cattle fencing and wire.
Harman and Smith were arrested.
According to the arrest affidavit, the cage was about 6 feet by 6 feet and 5 feet tall. It was built out of cattle paneling and part of a wooden snow fence. Part of the top opening was covered with plywood.
A metal chain was in place to keep the child locked inside.
Deputies found a cot, clothing, books, a toothbrush and a bucket inside the cage.
According to Sheriff Dave O’Malley, the boy was forced to sleep there, sometimes in the rain. He may have been in the cage since June. The boy told investigators sometimes his mother forgot to feed him.
Harman told deputies that it was the boy’s playpen and that he was put in there when he was misbehaving.
Smith told investigators the boy was kept in the cage to keep him safe.
O’Malley would not offer a motive in the case, but said a witness told them Smith told a friend he wished the child would die. Investigators first received tips about possible abuse more than a year ago.
“You continue to have a pattern of information that’s concerning, but you don’t have an evidentiary background to do arrests or do a protective custody type of situation, so they were waiting for that,” O’Malley said.
Court documents list seven complaints over the last year, including some from the boy’s school that he was malnourished and often bruised and that he once reached into a trash can — right in front of a deputy — to grab food to eat.
“Up until July the 24th of this year, none of those investigations were sustained at a level that were appropriate for us to take any type of action,” O’Malley said.
‘The boy is now in protective custody.
Both Harman and Smith remain jailed on $100,000 bond each. They will both appear in court on Thursday.