Two people were arrested on child cruelty charges after an 8-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy — siblings with special needs — were discovered living in a Georgia home in makeshift cages, authorities said Friday.
The disturbing conditions were found Thursday during one of two welfare checks at the home in the rural town of Chatsworth, the Murray County Sheriff’s Office said at a news conference. Police had received a tip about a child being in the home alone.
A woman — later identified as Wanda Redfern, 49 — answered the door along with the young girl, allowing a deputy inside, investigators said. During a search, he found two “cages” placed in a bedroom. The cages were beds — one with wooden rails covering it and a second with hinges and plastic zip ties.
A boy was found living inside the second cage, said Greg Ramey, a special agent in charge at the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. He added that both children appeared in relatively good condition, but were taken into custody by the state Department of Family and Children’s Services for medical attention.
Authorities believe the children were being kept inside the cages since at least June. State welfare investigators had previously opened a case involving the family, but closed it that same month, Ramey said.
The mother of the siblings was identified as Stephanie Stone, 34, and she was later arrested. Redfern was also taken into custody. The women were charged with cruelty to children and false imprisonment.
In the 30 years the GBI investigator Greg Ramey has been in law enforcement, he says he’s never seen anything like this case.
Investigators are also looking into a third person who may be connected with the case. No bond was immediately set for the women.
2 Northwest Georgia Women Arrested After Child Found in Cage
Two northwest Georgia women face child cruelty charges after an 11-year-old boy was found trapped in a cage in a bedroom, authorities said Friday.
Law enforcement agents on Thursday arrested Stephanie Stone, 34, and Wanda Redfern, 49, said Greg Ramey, Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge for the region. Both women face charges of first-degree cruelty to children and false imprisonment. Stone also faces a charge of possession of a controlled substance after investigators found methamphetamine.
Responding to a 911 call of a child left alone, a deputy went to a Chatsworth home around 11 a.m. Thursday. He was met at the home by an unidentified woman and a female child. Since the child was clearly not alone, he left.
The same caller, whom Ramey described as a concerned citizen, called 911 again at 3:15 p.m. Thursday and provided more information and asked for further investigation into the home.
When the deputy returned to the home, he was met by Redfern and the same female child, Ramey said. The deputy was given permission to enter the home and inside found the 11-year-old boy in a cage made from one twin bed turned over on top of another and with bars on the sides in one bedroom, Ramey said. Zip ties held the cage together and kept the boy from getting out.
“He had about a 2-by-2-foot area that was not encumbered by toys, clothing and other debris,” Ramey said, adding that the child was not able to sit up in the enclosure.
In a second bedroom, the deputy found a makeshift cage made of wood. That cage was empty, but Ramey said investigators had reason to believe the 8-year-old girl was sometimes kept in there.
The two children were taken into state custody and placed in a secure family situation. They did not appear to have any injuries or life-threatening conditions, but they were getting medical checkups Friday, Ramey said.
Ramey said the home was unsuitable.
“It was not a condition that children should be living in,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Ramey also wouldn’t comment on anything the two women may have said to authorities.
Stone is the mother of the two children and Redfern is the fiancée of Stone’s stepfather, Ramey said. The investigation is ongoing and a third arrest is possible, Ramey said.
A judge on Friday set bond at $25,000 for Redfern and $27,500 for Stone. The two were still in custody Friday afternoon, and it was not immediately clear whether either woman had a lawyer who could comment on the charges.