2 charged after children sealed in plywood boxes with no water, light

Daryl Justen Head and Laura Elizabeth Cheatham.                        Farmington Police Dept. via KMOV-TV

Four children were found Tuesday inside rooms "smaller than a jail cell" with no windows, lighting or plumbing at a Farmington, Missouri, home, police said.

Investigators with the Missouri Children's Division and police showed up to the home, according to the sheriff's office.

The man and woman were taken into police custody. Ultimately they said they saw Cheatham unscrewing the plywood holding the boxes shut. No plumbing. The kids might have used floor vents for restroom purposes, authorities suggested.

Daryl Justen Head, 38, and Laura Elizabeth Cheatham, 38, have each been charged with four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the 1st degree and four counts of kidnapping in the second degree.

The children are Cheatham's adopted kids from a previous marriage. Officials think they were living at the home for several weeks, KMOV reported.

The case surfaced after an unknown caller contacted a child abuse hotline and authorities went to investigate the tip.

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"I've seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing this deplorable", St. Francois Sheriff Daniel Bullock told the outlet.

The rooms in which the children, ages of 5-12 years old, were being held were described as "specially constructed" rooms with no windows or lighting.

News 4 learned that Cheatham was an employee at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. "This is the kind of thing that happens somewhere else, not here". All four children consisting of three (3) girls and one (1) boy were placed in the care of the Missouri Children's Division.

Tuesday, outside the couple's Middle Brook Drive home, neighbors said they had no idea the children were allegedly being kept in such horrific conditions. And Head was employed as a community support specialist at the BJC Behavioral Health center in Farmington from July of 2016 to June of 2018.

Their bond was set at $2million each.

If convicted as charged, the two could face decades in prison, according to St. Francois County Prosecutor Jerrod Mahurin.

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