A Wisconsin couple was charged Monday with nine felony counts after they were arrested for allegedly keeping four of their five children — only one of whom is biological — in cages.
Travis Lanier Headrick, 46, and Amy Michelle Headrick, 39, are facing three counts of reckless endangerment, four counts of child neglect and two counts of false imprisonment following their arrest last Friday, according to the Associated Press.
In total, the Headricks could be imprisoned for a maximum of 41 years, should they be convicted on all nine counts. Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Mark Goodman described the charges against the couple as “extremely grave,” noting their alleged victims were “extremely vulnerable,” the La Crosse Tribune reported.
The criminal complaint against the middle-aged parents claimed police found a 10-year-old boy locked in a horse trough covered with metal fencing secured by zip ties, an 11-year-old boy trapped in a double-stacked cage and a 12-year-old girl in a room that could only be unlocked from the outside hallway.
The babysitter, who went to the home Monday through Friday, took photos of the boy locked in the horse trough and showed the image to her mother, who forwarded it to the police. The nanny told police she unlocked the cages every morning, but was told by Amy Headrick to place two kids back in their cages if they misbehaved.
She told police she was hesitant to report the situation because she didn’t want to be evicted. Her rental unit is owned by the Headricks.
Two other children in the house — one of whom was adopted, the other biological — showed no signs their movements were restricted, though nearly every room in the residence was equipped with alarms.
For their part, the Headricks argued to law enforcement officers they are just misunderstood. Travis Headrick told police his children are cognitively disabled, claiming, “Unfortunately, you don’t understand their cognitive behavior and the danger they put themselves in.”
Amy Headrick said the 10-year-old boy was normally put to bed — or locked in his cage — around 7 p.m. and was released for “potty breaks” around 12 a.m. and 2 a.m. She described his cage as “a membrane that is washable” and said she could free her children, in case of an emergency, “within 30 seconds.”
The complaint also alleges physical abuse, including accusations that Amy Headrick kicked one of her children in the stomach while he was on the floor and took another child and held his head under the faucet, nearly causing him to pass out. Police also concluded the children were being fed an inadequate diet.
According to the couple’s biological daughter, who described her siblings’ treatment as “inhumane,” every meal her adopted brothers and sister eat “is the exact same.” She told law enforcement officials she wasn’t caged because “I’m the one who has to do it all,” noting if the babysitter quit, her parents said she would have to drop out of school to take care of her siblings.
“I have no life,” she said.
The biological daughter told police her parents’ motivation for adoption was the reimbursement checks they received from the government.
Bond for each parent was set at $20,000. They are scheduled for their next court hearing Sept. 6.