Couple jailed after 4 Missouri children found in windowless rooms

Elias Hubbard
August 10, 2018

A Missouri couple has been arrested for allegedly keeping four children locked inside small boxes secured with plywood and screws.

"Police took custody of the uniforms from officials at Farmington Correctional Center along with cardboard patterns that are marked "kids pants", 'kids shirt". Shortly after they entered the home, they saw 38-year-old Laura Cheatem, Daryl's partner trying to unscrew the plywood as a 6-year-old boy appeared from behind the panel.

The children resorted to going to the bathroom in vents in the floor, according to authorities.

Daryl Justen and Laura Elizabeth Cheatham, both 38, were charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child, three counts of second-degree kidnapping in connection with the incident.

"I've seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing this deplorable", said St. Francois Sheriff Daniel Bullock. Children then came out of the spaces, police said. "This is the kind of thing that happens somewhere else, and not here". They had previously been adopted by Cheatham and her estranged husband and had lived in the home for a few weeks, he said.

The rooms in which the children, ages of 5-12 years old, were being held were described as "specially constructed" rooms with no windows or lighting.

5 On Your Side discovered Cheatham and Head started a nonprofit past year created to help children with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Investigators learned on Wednesday, August 8 that in January of 2018, Laura Cheatham, a recent former employee of the Missouri Department of Corrections, placed an order with Prison Industries Clothing Division for four kids size prison inmate uniforms.

A couple has been charged with eight counts of child endangerment and kidnapping for allegedly trapped four children in plywood boxes inside a Missouri home. Their bonds are set at $500,000 on each count, and further charges may ensue as the investigation unfolds.

If convicted as charged, the two could face decades in prison, according to St. Francois County Prosecutor Jerrod Mahurin.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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