Police: Ohio Couple Put Son in Cage
Thursday, May 3, 2007; 7:42 PM
TOLEDO, Ohio -- A couple locked their 10-year-old son in a small dog cage while his father used drugs, and at times they forced him to wear a shock collar meant for training animals, authorities said.
Jessica Botzko, 28, and John Westover, 37, were arrested Wednesday, a day after the boys were left alone at home and ran away. They were found on a neighbor's porch.
The couple appeared briefly in court Thursday on charges of child endangerment and making or selling drugs in front of the boy and his 5-year-old brother.
The older boy told officers that he took off because he was tired of being left in the cage, which was less than 2 feet high by 2 feet wide, police Capt. Ray Carroll said.
"He had to tuck his knees into his chest, and he fell asleep in there on a couple occasions," Carroll said. "It wasn't continuous. It was probably on and off for punishment."
Court documents say the boy was repeatedly shocked at the family's home through the remote-controlled collar.
It was not clear whether the younger boy had been caged, Carroll said. The boys were in state custody.
The 10-year-old told officers that his father put him in the cage when he was using or making drugs, Carroll said. Police searched the mobile home and found it filled with dirty clothes, garbage and empty boxes.
The boy looked thin and told authorities he had not eaten for a couple of days, police said. He weighed 61 pounds, Carroll said.
Neighbors said they often heard the couple fighting. Catherine Hightower said she saw the oldest boy a few times when he was taking out garbage.
"I'm just finding out they had more than the one boy," she said.
The parents' hearings were continued because neither had a lawyer. A message seeking comment was left for them at the jail.
The oldest boy was previously removed from the home in 1998, when Botzko was charged with child endangering. Westover had an extensive criminal record and was wanted on a child endangering charge in suburban Toledo.
In addition, the couple had a daughter who died a few years ago of sudden infant death syndrome, and police plan to take another look into the death, Carroll said.
Another Ohio couple, Michael and Sharen Gravelle of Norwalk, were convicted in February of child abuse and endangerment for keeping some of their 11 special-needs adopted children in wire and wood enclosures.