Police: Autistic boys ages 5 and 7 forced to live in cage; parents charged

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Apartment complex where two little boys, ages 5 and 7, were being allegedly abused and kept in a cage. Screen shot via KTAL Channel 6 News.

Two Washington state autistic children, ages 5 and 7, were rescued earlier this month after child protective services reported their abuse speculations to the police. Police arrested the father, John Eckhart, 30 and his girlfriend Alayna Higdon, 26 after finding the children living under inhumane conditions. The children were found sharing a single mattress, wearing diapers and locked up in a room which had been converted to a cage. The room was reportedly dark, the boys were without any toys to play with and were not getting their medical needs met. The boys were also not in school. Police found two other children in the apartment, boys as well, ages 9 and 11 months, in the family’s apartment, but said that they were all living amongst garbage.

According to KTAL Channel 6, the Vancouver, Washington Police Department wrote this about the boys in their police report:

They boys were…reaching their arms through to try to grab on to me…making moaning noises…tapped their finger together through the holes between…strong smell of urine.

Officials have charged the couple with two counts of unlawful imprisonment and d0mestic violence. The minimum sentence would be 6 months, the maximum sentence — 5 years. All four children have been removed from the home and placed in the custody of the state. The boys biological mother of the Autistic children, Jona Bronson, is reportedly trying to regain custody.

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  • keturah

    I am a 13 year old girl who can’t stand when i see reports on children that have been beaten to death or beaten for no reason. I have to pray for the poeple who do this stuff to children becuase you have no heart at all. I am so lucky that i dont go though this at home but for the children out there who has been beaten or die i pray that one day you can be free.But parnets can go to far at time and the abuse case is to much to take in . People should get the death pently for abusing children.Some children cant even group up to have a life so why should they? Abusing kids is not fun at all people should stop it.( what come around goes around.)

  • Annika

    I can’t believe this. I am so grateful my parents love me more than anything. These people who do these terrible things to their children… they don’t deserve to be called human, much less parents. I just… can’t comprehend… I can’t… Karma… They will die a slow and painful death! I GUARANTEE IT! If they don’t, let’s hope that the rest of their lives will be a living HELL… and worse!

  • C Daggs

    How very sad. It is hard to know what really happened based on this report, because autistic kids a lot of the time ARE in diapers, and are not allowed in school if they are very severe (which sounds like it here). They also will usually need dark rooms because the light is too overwhelming, and sometimes they have to be locked in, otherwise they get out in the middle of the night, wander and when they are found, they are usally dead.

    My heart goes out to this family who may not have been getting the right help and may have been doing the best they could. Autism is big heavy stuff, hard to understand unless you are living it. You spend every minute working with it, redirecting, teaching, feeding, diapering, and if you have other children,..I have NO Idea how you will clean until they are old enough to do so. There isn’t enough support anywhere,some places it is even worse. I hope they have friends and family who just got the wake up call and they will help.

  • Creelee

    C Daggs I agree with you that the family probably needs support and some type of assistance. However there is NEVER any excuse for raising children in a filthy home! If there was a strong stench of urine in the room where the children were then there is no excuse for that either. For that odor to become that strong that means that the parents were changing the children as often as they should have (that is if the severity of their autism actually called for diapers to be worn). You don’t need assistance to do general cleaning within your home. This is something that should be done daily. Not saying that it necessarily calls for deep cleaning everyday, but damn at least make sure that there isn’t garbage just lying around. There were two adults in this situation, which makes it a team effort to just do what is normal and what it right.

  • Jalyn

    Omg i cant see how people can abuse their children. If they dont want them there are a lot of good family’s out there who would be more than happy to have them. im 16 and i cant believe these 39, 24…. year old people are so rude horrible people

  • Ruth

    I pray for all those children that they will go some where that they are truly love and taken care of, where no one will harm them and they will be treated with respect. I pray for all children that have to go threw this and that the people who do this to them will go to jail and stay in jail, or at least never be allowed to have children live with them again.

  • Mindy

    C Daggs you are entirely incorrect. I have a son who is severely autistic. He is two years old. He can not speak. He will be 3 in May. They can go to school infact they encourage it. Early Childhood education is the key. I send my son to school 5 days a week that I have to pay for. I bust my butt at my minimum wage job every week so he can have that education. His father is a dead beat dad and wants nothing to do with him. Before he started school he was evaluated and developmentally was like a 6 month old baby. Hes been there four months and went for being 6 months developmentally to 18 months. It cost $10,000 dollars a year to send him there for the first 5 years and its worth every penny. There are government programs that help pay for the cost so you can continue working. My husband works to cover the rest of the cost and is the best father figure he has. Both my husband and I love my son to pieces and we want whats best for him. To have a normal life because he wont if we dont try. Despite all the problems that do arise because of my sons autism I wouldn’t have him any differently and take him just the way he is right now. If someone ever treated my son this way I would have their heads. How dare these people treat their special children in such a manner just makes me sick. I hope they get what they deserve. And I pray and hope these sweet and special boys get the help and love that is needed for them to grow up as normally as they can. These poor babies didnt deserve any of what they got.

  • Cal

    Oh my god, this list has some of he most horrifying things I’ve ever read…. I’m twelve, and since I’m a kid it’s just emphasized how terrible this is.