Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Parents Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison for Caging Autistic Son in O'Fallon, Mo

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Parents Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison for Caging Autistic Son in O'Fallon, Mo

Article excerpt

ST. CHARLES COUNTY * A couple were sentenced Friday to seven years in prison for keeping their severely autistic son in a makeshift cage.

Terry and Victoria Smith, formerly of O'Fallon, Mo., had been convicted last month of child endangerment in the case.

Circuit Judge Ted House also ordered the Smiths to each pay a $500 fine.

"The court finds no compelling reason to deviate" from the jury's recommendation of seven years and fines, House said.

In 2010, authorities found the Smiths' son, Josiah, then 6, in a urine-and-feces-soaked enclosure held together with zip ties and bungee cords.

Police, paramedics and a case worker had gone to the Smiths' home following a tip to a state child abuse hotline. The Smiths also have five other children.

County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar's office sought prison time for Victoria Smith, 44, and Terry Smith, 45, but didn't specify how much.

"They are not responsible adults under any circumstances," assistant prosecutor Becky Shaffar said at the sentencing hearing Friday.

She pointed out that the Smiths hadn't apologized.

Attorneys for the Smiths argued that jailing them would also punish Josiah and their other children. They urged House to put them on probation.

They said since the 2010 incident, the couple had done everything they had been told to do for the children by authorities.

"Their large family needs two parents," said Courtney Harness, Victoria Smith's attorney. "This case is about what's best for Josiah" and the other children.

Shaffar, however, said it's about punishing the defendants for what they did "putting the child in a cage over and over because he was an inconvenience to them."

It's unclear what will happen to the Smiths' children now. Steven Kobal, another assistant prosecutor, said that will be up to the Missouri Department of Social Services.

Department officials could not be reached for comment. The family now lives in Elsberry in Lincoln County.

The seven-year sentence imposed on the parents is the maximum allowed.

However, Shaffar predicted during the hearing that the Smiths as first-time offenders might spend only a year in prison before they're released by the state Board of Probation and Parole. …

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