Two caretakers of an autistic child have been placed under arrest after police found the girl living in a cage stinking of urine and feces.

According to the Johnson City Press, Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputies were called to do a welfare check on a 10-year-old autistic child living at the home of Mickey Sparks and Patricia Laws of Jonesborough. When police entered the child’s bedroom they were overwhelmed with the scent of urine and feces that seemed to have been coming from a wooden box the girl had been locked in.


Both Sparks and Laws were arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect. Laws explained that she had difficulty controlling the child’s behavior and had been told by social workers that the wooden box was an appropriate method for dealing with the child’s meltdowns. She referred to this area as the girl’s “safe room.”

Sparks told officers that the family had been visited several times by social workers and that the box had been approved. Child Protective Services Supervisor Karen Thompson had been contacted by investigators on the matter. She told Deputy Jared Taylor that they had been called to the residence several times, but to her knowledge, no one had ever approved a locked box to be used for behavioral management.


Four children, including the autistic child, have since been removed from the home and have been placed into foster care. Investigators are continuing to investigate how long the girl had been locked in the cage and what the living conditions were for the other children found in the home.

Laws and Sparks are currently being held on $50,000 bond each. They are due to appear in court on February 16, 2017.