An Anaheim couple are facing felony charges of child endangerment for allegedly locking their 11-year-old son in a metal cage, police said.
Police officers arrived at the home of Loy Vu, 40, and Trang Le, 35, after receiving a tip and discovered a large cage with a mattress and other items.
The Vietnamese couple, who speak broken English, were arrested on
suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment.
"There are some signs that someone had been living there, including a mattress," said Anaheim Police Lt. Bob Dunn.
The cage measured about 6 feet tall and 4 1/2 feet wide.
"It was enough for him to be able to stand up in if, in fact, he was living in that cage," Dunn said.
Relatives of the family told police that the boy has communication problems and his emotional outbursts became exceedingly difficult for the parents to control.
Despite the shocking discovery, the boy himself was found to be otherwise healthy and well-bathed, police said. His siblings – a boy and a girl, aged 10 and eight, respectively – were also reported to be in good physical condition.
Nevertheless, the children were taken to a local hospital for routine medical tests, police said.
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All the children have been taken into protective custody.
Now the investigation will focus on exactly how long the boy had been kept in the cage. Due to language barriers, translators will be required to assist police with the investigation.
Neighbors were reportedly shocked by the news.
"I hear the kids screaming, laughing and playing out there but I don't know I assumed they were just playing," Kathy Johnson, who lives near the family, told NBC4.
One expert in the field of autism spoke with NBC4 and said the family may have lacked the skills required to deal with their child’s condition.
"Maybe they didn't have the skill set or the tools or support to know how to address his behaviors and were helpless," said Peter Thach. "Maybe they resorted to that very desperate situation where they used a cage."
He said a language barrier and availability of resources may have prevented the family from seeking assistance.