A Florida couple was arrested after they allegedly locked up their 14-year-old son in a small structure in the garage, where he was monitored with a camera and had a bucket to use as a bathroom, police said.
The parents, Tracy and Timothy Ferriter, both 46, were charged with aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment, the Jupiter Police Department announced Wednesday in a news release.
Authorities learned of the living conditions the boy was allegedly subjected to on Jan. 30, when detectives visited the Ferriter residence in Egret Landing after the boy was reported as a runaway.
Tracy allowed one detective into the home, who found an 8-foot-by-8-foot structure in the garage that the mother said was used “as an office or for storage space,” police said.
It had a doorknob and a deadbolt, “both locking from the outside, as well as a light switch only on the exterior,” according to authorities.
There was a camera, mattress and a bucket in the structure, police said.
The boy was found the next day at school and interviewed by detectives.
He told officers he ran away “because I feel like no one loves me,” according to a criminal probable cause affidavit.
The boy told detectives he did not want to return to his family, pleaded to be arrested and stated “he would rather be in prison than be back home,” the document states.
He said the longest occasion he remembered being locked in the room was 16 to 18 hours, according to the affidavit. The teen also told police he had a room similar to the structure in the garage when his family lived in Arizona.
Police also interviewed one of the boy’s siblings who said the victim was locked in the structure when he was misbehaving or in trouble before adding he “is in trouble a lot.”
Police later determined the boy “has been physically abused and forcibly confined to live within the garage structure” since at least 2017.
He was allowed to attend school but was “forced to stay in the structure the rest of the day,” police said.
“Meals were brought to the child and the bucket was provided for bathroom use,” police said in the news release.
Police got a search warrant to search the Ring camera in the room and found “thousands of videos” showing the child “being repeatedly locked inside of his room daily.”
One video showed him being locked in the room after “being found to have ‘stolen’ chocolate and cookies from the kitchen despite being told he was not allowed to have them,” according to the affidavit.
It also states that the police department received a call in December 2021 from a man who said he was contacted to build an office in the garage of the home and he found the specific instructions to be “very strange.”
His description of the structure matched the description provided by police in the news release.
The man told police “if someone were inside the office they would not be able to exit unless someone opened the door for them from the outside,” according to the affidavit. He also said “the entire project was to be completed within two days.”
It was not clear Thursday what authorities did after the man went to police with that information.
The couple had three other children living in the home. They have been removed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, police said. Police said the boy had been adopted by the Ferriters; they did not mention the status of the other three children.
The investigation is ongoing.
The Ferriters appeared in court Wednesday and were ordered to be held on $50,000 bail and to have no contact with their kids unless given permission by the state Department of Children and Families, NBC affiliate WPTV of West Palm Beach, reported. They were later released on bond, according to the news station.
The couple’s attorney, Nellie King, told NBC News Thursday that she presented “critical evidence” in the case to police that was “ignored.”
“Law enforcement has an obligation to conduct investigations in an objective and thorough manner. I made information known to the police in order to assist them in the factfinding process, including evidence from Arizona where this family had lived up until a month ago. This critical evidence was ignored,” she said.
“In the criminal legal system, the temptation for a community to rush to judge is tempered by the judicial process, a presumption of innocence, and the facts,” she added. “What Tim and Tracy have lived through the past many years will therefore be presented in court.”