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Police: 'Cage-like door' used to lock 2 boys in bedroom

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • A father and his fiancee face felony charges over the treatment of 2 boys
  • Vancouver, Washington, police say that two boys, 5 and 7, were locked in a room
  • Those boys and 2 other children who weren't confined were taken away

(CNN) -- A father and his fiancee are behind bars after being accused of using a cagelike door to lock two young boys in a bedroom, according to police in Washington state.

John Eckhart, 30, and Alayna Higdon, 26, both face felony charges of unlawful imprisonment and criminal mistreatment, said Clark County Superior Court clerk Laurie Freese.

Vancouver, Washington, police went to their home Tuesday to conduct a welfare check requested by the state government's Child Protective Services division, that police department said in a press release. That state agency had complained that its officials had been unable to get inside and check on the children purportedly living there.

"Two of the children were locked in a bedroom that had the door removed and replaced with a cagelike door," the police said.

Those two children are 5 and 7 years old. The other two youngsters in the apartment, ages 11 months and 9 years, were not so confined, according to Vancouver police.

Higdon was released on $25,000 bail Thursday morning, a day after she and Eckhart made their first court appearances, said Freese. The two should be arraigned April 27 at the Clark County Superior Court in Vancouver.

All four children, meanwhile, were placed in the custody of Child Protective Services.

The girl's mother, Jona Bronson, told CNN affiliate KATU that she gave up custody of the children in 2006 to Eckhart and had not seen them in a year until last Sunday. She said that the two boys who were confined were autistic.

"I don't know how to think right now or how to feel. I'm still kind of in shock," Bronson said, adding she hoped to gain custody of the children. "I would really love to make it right ... I just didn't know the first step."

CNN's Marleena Baldacci contributed to this report.