Sheriff: Inquiry into alleged child cage took time

August 7, 2014 - 1:04 PM
Caged Child

This image shows the property outside Laramie, Wyo., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, where a 7-year-old child was allegedly kept in an outdoor cage behind the residence. A man and a woman face felony charges on allegations that they kept the child in an outdoor cage on and off for three weeks, forcing the child to sleep in the enclosure even during rainstorms. (AP Photo/Laramie Boomerang, Jeremy Martin)

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Investigators did not have enough evidence until last month to take custody of a 7-year-old Wyoming boy who was allegedly kept in an outdoor cage, despite requests last year to check on his welfare, authorities said.

Albany County Sheriff Dave O'Malley expressed frustration Wednesday that deputies couldn't act sooner, but the initial investigations didn't provide enough evidence, the Laramie Daily Boomerang reported (http://tinyurl.com/nsbfthf).

"It's not easy to take custody of a child away from their parent," O'Malley said. "When you get to the point that you've got the evidence so that you can do that and feel comfortable that the child is going to be in a safe environment for a period of time, that's when you act, and that's what we did."

Sheriff's deputies took the boy into protective custody July 24 after finding the 6-by-6-foot cage made of wood and metal outside a rural house west of Laramie. O'Malley said he was told the boy is doing well now.

The boy's mother and her boyfriend were arrested on child-abuse charges. The man was scheduled to appear in court Thursday. The woman's next hearing has not been scheduled.

The Associated Press typically does not identify abuse victims and is withholding the suspects' names to avoid identifying the child.

A court document said the sheriff's department received a child abuse report about the boy in August and seven requests to check on his welfare starting in October.

"Up until July 24 of this year, none of those investigations were sustained at a level that (was) appropriate for us to take any type of action," O'Malley said.

Deputies said the child reported living in the 5-foot-high enclosure off and on for three weeks. He said meals were brought to the cage and that he slept there overnight even when it rained.

Inside the cage, deputies discovered a cot, clothing, books, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a five-gallon bucket, according to court documents. A metal chain and "dog-leash-style latch" allegedly were used to keep the child locked in the enclosure.