CRIME
08/06/2014 09:40 am ET | Updated Aug 06, 2014

Wyoming Couple Kept Child In Cage: Police

The child's mother called it a "playpen." Authorities disagree.

A Wyoming couple faces felony charges after police said they kept a 7-year-old child in an outdoor cage for weeks.

Jena Harman, the child's mother, and her boyfriend, Alexander Smith, are charged with child abuse and felonious restraint. They were arrested July 24. After Albany County Sheriff's deputies received a tip about the enclosure, where cops said the child was kept against his will.

The cage was 6 feet by 6 feet, built with cattle paneling, snow fencing and a sheet of plywood, which served as a kind of roof. It was set outside and secured with a metal chain and “dog-leash-style latch," according to the Laramie Boomerang.

There, the child told police, he would sleep on the floor, locked in the pen in the rain while the family dog enjoyed the luxury of a couch.

This allegedly went on intermittently for weeks. An affidavit obtained by KUSA outlines the harsh restrictions that the child was made to endure:

Harman and Smith also imposed rules on bathroom use. The child told investigators that peeing outside was allowed, but if the child "has to go poop, [the child] holds on to it, until they can go to town," the affidavit read.

The arrest affidavit said the child was fed at least once a day and had to eat while inside the enclosure. The victim was only let out of the cage for short periods during the day.

The child was also at times sprayed with a hose.

Neighbors said they sometimes witnessed the abuse, but were afraid to report it, fearing retribution by Smith.

The arrests came nearly a year after the first incident of abuse was reported. According to the Laramie Boomerang, the sheriff’s office had received complaints of child abuse and requests for the child's welfare to be checked on that dated back to August of last year.

An October 2013 incident report said the child was kept outside and not fed for a period of several days, during which he was forced to take shelter in a vehicle in foul weather, according to the Associated Press.

Harman's arraignment hasn't been scheduled yet, but Smith is due in court Thursday. If convicted on all counts, they could each face up to 20 years in prison.

The child is now in state custody.

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