Harry Richard Shoemaker and Jennifer Ann Hines, Arcadia Florida father and live in girlfriend arrested locking 14 year old autistic son in 6 x 10 shed ongoing.
Harry Richard Shoemaker, 44, of Haines City and Jennifer Ann Hines, 36, of Arcadia were arrested after police said Shoemaker locked his 14-year-old son in a 6 x 10ft shed, according to the Arcadia Police Department.
Officers responded to the home, located at 311 N Arcadia Ave, and met with a DCF investigator already on scene who showed an officer the shed where the teen was locked inside.
An officer unlocked the shed and spoke with the teen who said he had been locked in the shed for a few hours. The teen also claimed that his father, Shoemaker, and Hines would regularly lock him in the shed according to NBC2.
“When talking to the victim, he explained to us, he was like ‘hey did you see that bottle of water that was in there?’ We were like yeah, we [saw] it. He was like, ‘I was saving that for the weekend because I knew that was the only thing I was going to drink that entire time,” Lt. Troy Carrillo recalled according to the media outlet. “And we asked him, ‘hey where do you use the restroom at? so on and so forth?’ He said if I have to urinate, my dad makes me go in the yard. If I have to do something else, he makes me walk to the closest store to use the restroom.”
Locked from the outside
Inside of the shed, police found a bed, various trash, scattered tools, along with a bucket with human waste inside. The teen showed officers some snacks and canned soup that he was given.
The shed, which only locked from the outside, had no electricity or plumbing and was very hot because there was no means of climate control. Officers said the shed had one window and a vent.
“Talking to the dad, he said ‘no I never locked him in there just in case a fire started.’ That’s when I explained to him, no the officers had to forcibly open the door because it was locked,” Lt. Carrillo said.
The teen told investigators he slept in the shed nightly and is often locked inside of it. Nobody was home when officers responded to the scene and the teen did not know when his father or Hines would be back according to the report.
The teen it was revealed had only eaten a packet of pistachios that day.
The boy said that Hines had the idea to lock him up for extended periods of time and eventually his father agreed and participated in doing so, according to police.
“When we talked to the dad,” Lt. Carrillo said, “he tried to justify what he was doing as far as it was his son’s fault because it was his behaviors and stuff that made him put him in the shed.”
“When we informed him that his dad got arrested, he was so happy.’
The boy claimed his father and his girlfriend used to keep him locked up in another room in the house, but after they got the shed, they moved him to it instead.
DCF realized the boy was being caged in the shed when they made a regular visit to the home, following a previous complaint by the boy’s grandmother.
“When we informed him that his dad got arrested, he was so happy. The first words out of his mouth when we told him your dad was arrested, he was like ‘oh thank God I don’t have to go back to that shed again,” Lt. Carrillo said.
It remained unclear what services the boy being was afforded either by his parents of the community to deal with his autism condition- a debilitating condition that affects victims’ social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
The boy is now in his grandmother’s care in New York.
But there’s more.
Special needs children
Earlier in the day, before the boy was discovered in the shed, his father and Hines allegedly tried to withdraw the 14 year old teen boy from school according to WINK.
“She [Hines] said she had no knowledge of anything going on and tried to distance herself from the situation. But when we spoke to the victim, he told us what her part was and that actually prior in the day, they actually tried to withdraw him from school,” Lt. Carrillo said.
Dr. Abbe Finn, counseling director at FGCU, said that as a community, people need to be “looking out for special needs members of our community to make sure that they are being cared for in the ways that anyone would want them to be.”
“If they disappear, if they’re not going to school… this is a school aged child… is he not going to school? So somebody should be asking where is he and what’s going on? How do we know that he’s okay? Typically the longer something’s been going on, the more severe the impact is on the mental health, physical health and cognitive development,” Finn said.
Both Shoemaker and Hines are facing felony charges of cruelty toward a child, and aggravated battery on a child.
Of note, 1 in 44 children in the US are afflicted by autism.
The couple is both being held at the DeSoto County Jail on a $75,000 bond.