Missouri couple accused of keeping autistic girl in cage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two women have been charged with locking a 9-year-old autistic girl in a cage in their filthy and roach infested northwestern Missouri home.

The girl's mother, 35-year-old Katrina England, and her wife, 39-year-old Debra England, were charged Wednesday with child abuse and child endangerment. Court records don't list attorneys for either of the women, who are free on bond and don't have listed phone numbers.

DeKalb County sheriff's deputies and state child welfare workers went to the family's home in Maysville on Tuesday to investigate abuse allegations, the county sheriff's office said in a news release. They found that a bunk bed in the home had been modified with boards to keep the girl from escaping and that it only had a sleeping bag inside for her to sleep on.

The couple admitted that they locked the girl in the cage for up to 12 hours at a time, the sheriff's office said. Katrina England also admitted to leaving her daughter, who was from a prior relationship, inside the cage numerous times when she herself was out of the house, it said.

Chief Deputy Kasey Keesaman said the mother told investigators that they had been putting her daughter in the cage for several months, though he said authorities were still trying to determine exactly how long it had been going on.

"I would assume it had been happening for quite some time with this poor child," Keesaman said.

The conditions in the home were deplorable, with no ceiling in the living room and floors that were covered in animal droppings and cigarette butts, the sheriff's office said. Deputies saw cockroaches and reported that it was difficult to walk on the front porch because it was so piled with trash.

Keesaman said the girl has been going to school and that a bus dropped her off at the home during the investigation. She was taken into protective custody and is in good health, he said.

The women were arrested in 2018 in the nearby town of Cameron on suspicion of shoplifting, but the only previous police call involving their home was when the girl's mother reported that her vehicle had been stolen, Keesaman said, noting that it turned out that the vehicle had been repossessed.