According to reports, the 44-year-old father and his 36-year-old girlfriend reportedly locked the man’s 14-year-old son with autism in a 6 x10ft shed. The responding officers reportedly found a bed, various trash, scattered tools and a bucket toilet. The teen showed officers some snacks and canned soup that he was given. The shed was only locked from the outside and it had no electricity or plumbing. The shed was also very hot because there was no means of climate control.
The 44-year-old dad, Harry Richard Shoemaker, and his 36-year-old girlfriend, Jennifer Ann Hines, both from Florida, were taken into custody on Friday after the father allegedly locked his 14-year-old autistic son in a shed.
The responding officers made contact with the DCF investigator, who was already on scene. The investigator reportedly showed an officer the shed where the teen was locked inside.
The officers unlocked the shed and spoke with the 14-year-old who said he had been locked in the shed for a few hours. The boy also claimed that his father and the father’s girlfriend would regularly lock him in the shed, according to reports.
Lt. Troy Carrillo reportedly said:
“When talking to the victim, he explained to us, he was like ‘hey did you see that bottle of water that was in there?’ We were like yeah, we [saw] it. He was like, ‘I was saving that for the weekend because I knew that was the only thing I was going to drink that entire time.’ And we asked him, ‘hey where do you use the restroom at? so on and so forth?’ He said if I have to urinate, my dad makes me go in the yard. If I have to do something else, he makes me walk to the closest store to use the restroom.”
Inside the shed, the responding officers reportedly found a bed, various trash, scattered tools and a bucket with human waste. The teen showed officers some snacks and canned soup that he was given.
The responding officers also said that the shed was only locked from the outside and it had no electricity or plumbing. The shed was also very hot because there was no means of climate control.
The 14-year-old boy also told investigators that he reportedly slept in the shed nightly and is often locked inside of it. The boy’s father and the father’s girlfriend were not home when officers responded to the scene.
The boy also said that his father’s girlfriend reportedly had the idea to lock him up for extended periods of time and eventually his father agreed and participated in doing so.
Lt. Troy Carrillo also said:
“Talking to the dad, he said ‘no I never locked him in there just in case a fire started.’ That’s when I explained to him, no the officers had to forcibly open the door because it was locked. He tried to justify what he was doing as far as it was his son’s fault because it was his behaviors and stuff that made him put him in the shed.”
The DCF investigator realized the boy was being caged in the shed when they made a regular visit to the home. The boy is now in his grandmother’s care in New York.
It remains unclear what services the boy being was afforded either by his parents of the community to deal with his autism condition- a debilitating condition that affects victims’ social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
Dr. Abbe Finn, counseling director at FGCU, said that as a community, people need to be looking out for special needs members of our community to make sure that they are being cared for in the ways that anyone would want them to be.
Dr. Abbe Finn reportedly said:
“If they disappear, if they’re not going to school… this is a school aged child… is he not going to school? So somebody should be asking where is he and what’s going on? How do we know that he’s okay? Typically the longer something’s been going on, the more severe the impact is on the mental health, physical health and cognitive development.”
Both suspects are now facing felony charges of cruelty toward a child, and aggravated battery on a child. Both suspects are being held on a $75,000 bond. This incident remains under investigation. This is a developing story and it will be updated as new information become available.