A Florida woman was arrested after police found she was keeping her autistic child in a locked cage within her home.
Melissa Doss, 43, was arrested on July 25 after police found the cage, where she kept the child, inside the bedroom of her home in Palm Bay, Florida.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that police found a pillow and blanket inside the cage.
Ms Doss told the police that she kept her autistic daughter in the cage to prevent her from running away or hurting herself in the night.
A day prior to the arrest, the young girl escaped and was wandering around the yard of a neighbor.
Officers who found the girl reported that she could not speak and suffered from a disability. Once they made contact with the girl, she was able to communicate enought to lead police back to Doss’s home.
Officials say initially, Doss refused to let the police enter her home.
After police knocked several times, Doss exited the house from another door and climbed a fence to talk to them outside.
Doss told police that she was unaware that the girl had escaped, and said she would not let them in because if she did, they would call the Florida Department of Children and Families (FDCF), which prompted officers to call FDCF.
Officers and and an official from FDCF met outside Doss’ home and following day and Doss at first refused them all entry, but eventually gave permission to enter.
According to the incident report, police found the house was filled with garbage and had been infested with spiders, fleas and other bugs.
According to the report, officers could not see any part of the floor due to the ‘buildup of trash’.
In addition to the unsanitary garbage and trash in the home, parts of the ceiling were collapsing or missing, and there were no working bathrooms in the home, which created a persistent smell of urine and feces throughout the home.
According to police, the cage the girl was being kept in was large enough to fit a twin-size bed. Doss told officers the girl suffered from severe autism and she would trap her inside of the cage nightly to prevent her from escaping the home in an attempt to keep her safe.
Doss was charged with three counts of child neglect without bodily harm as well as aggravated child abuse as aggravated assault, according to the police report, and is being held on $22,500 bond.
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