Photo credit: People / Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office
By Tom Helling | People
Police have arrested a Florida couple, alleging that they physically abused their 14-year-old son and forced the teen to live in a garage for at least five years.
Tracy and Timothy Ferriter, both 46, were arrested in Jupiter, Fla., on charges of aggravated child abuse.
According to a police report obtained by CBS-12, detectives arrived at the Ferriters’ home after Tracy reported her teen was missing.
When they arrived, police say, they noticed an 8-by-8 structure inside the garage that Tracy allegedly described as a small office.
Authorities noticed that the structure had a deadbolt that locked from the outside, and that its light switch was only on the exterior of the structure, the police report alleges. Inside the structure was a mattress, a sheet, some books and other personal items.
When the teen resurfaced at school the following day, he told officers that his parents locked him in the garage structure for up to 18 hours, WPTV reports. When an officer asked the teen why he ran away, he allegedly told them, “because I feel like no one loves me.”
The teen allegedly pleaded with officers to arrest him, telling them that “he would rather be in prison than be back at home,” the report alleges.
Detectives now allege that the Ferriters have been physically abusing and forcibly confining the teen to live in the garage structure since 2017.
The teen was permitted to attend school, authorities allege, but was locked up during the remainder of the day while at home. Meals were brought to him and a bucket was provided in lieu of a bathroom.
According to court documents, a search warrant served at the house revealed thousands of videos from a Ring camera that showed the teen locked inside the structure.
After the Ferriters were taken to jail, three other children living in the home were removed by Child Protective Services, WPEC reports.
The Ferriters appeared in court on Wednesday morning. According to WPTV, their defense attorney, Nellie King, argued that the child — who had been adopted — suffered from reactive attachment disorder. King said that the disorder was a condition in which a child fails to form a healthy emotional bond with caretakers.
A judge has set the Ferriters’ bond at $50,000 each and ordered them not to have contact with their children unless authorized by the Florida Department of Children and Families. They have pleaded not guilty. Their attorney did not immediately return PEOPLE’s call for comment.