JUPITER, Fla. — A South Florida couple is facing charges for forcing their adopted child to live in a box in their garage for years, according to police.
The Jupiter Police Department says detectives responded to the home of Tracy and Timothy Ferriter on Jan. 30 to follow up on a missing runaway investigation of a 13-year-old boy.
While at the home, police say Tracy allowed one detective to come inside. That's when the detective noticed an "8x8 structure" inside the garage.
The box had a doorknob and deadbolt, which both locked from the outside, and an exterior light switch, according to police. Inside the structure's walls, detectives say they saw a camera, mattress and bucket.
According to a press release, Tracy claimed the space was used as an office or storage space. But police say that wasn't the case.
One day after talking to the teen's mother, detectives went to their school to conduct an interview. It's there, in addition to other interviews, that the police department says it determined the boy had been physically abused and forced to live in the box in the garage by his adoptive parents.
Detectives say outside of attending school, the boy was confined to the structure daily since at least 2017.
"Meals were brought to the child and the bucket was provided for bathroom use," the police department wrote.
CBS12 reports the teen told investigators he was subjected to abuse by the couple and ran away because he "felt like no one loves him."
Both Tracy and Timothy Ferriter were arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse. Police say the other three children living in the Ferriter's home were removed by Child Protective Services.
The Palm Beach Post reports the couple appeared in court Wednesday where their attorney said investigators ignored "critical evidence" presented from Arizona — where the family lived until recently.
“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,” the attorney, Nellie King, told the newspaper in a prepared statement. “What Tim and Tracy have lived through the past many years will therefore be presented in court.”