Jupiter, Florida: On Wednesday, February 9, 2022 Timothy and Tracy Ferriter, both 46, made their first appearance in court for charges of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment.
The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges and were both released several hours after the judge set their bail at $50,000 each.
As a condition of their release, they were ordered not to have any contact with their children unless authorized by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
On Friday, January 28, Tracy reported the 14-year-old boy as missing to police. According to WPTV, she told them that the boy had gotten into trouble at school the previous day and that he "has several behavioral disorders."
Police arrived at the residence on Sunday, January 30 to see if the boy had returned home.
Once informed that he had not, police were given permission to look around the home.
Inside the garage, officers found an 8X8 structure that Tracy identified as an office.
Inside the room, officers observed a box spring, mattress, a desk, school books, a chair, and a bucket. Above the mattress was a Ring camera. On the exterior of the structure was a deadbolt and light switch.
Officers made contact with the 14-year-old at Independence Middle School the following day.
When asked why he had run away, the boy reportedly told officers it was "because I feel like no one loves me" and that he did not feel save at home. The boy went so far as to request that officers arrest him, asserting that he would rather go to prison than to have to go back home.
The following day, officers returned to the boy's home where they spoke with one of his siblings. The sibling told officers that the boy had been locked inside the garage structure when he was in trouble or misbehaved.
Officers executed a search warrant for the data captured by the Ring camera and found evidence to show that the boy had been locked in the structure daily, whenever he was not at school. On at least one occasion, he was reportedly locked into the room for 18 hours.
Meals consisting of leftovers would be brought to him, and in place of access to a bathroom, he was provided with a bucket.
The couple had previously lived in Jupiter, Florida for 16 years before moving to Arizona four years ago. Just last month, the couple returned to Florida.
During the Wednesday court appearance the attorney representing the Ferriters, Nellie King, issued a statement that indicated that her clients were innocent while admonishing the manner in which the investigation was conducted.
"In the criminal legal system, the temptation for a community to rush to judge is tempered by the judicial process, a presumption of innocence, and the facts. What Tim and Tracy have lived through the past many years will therefore be presented in court."
The attorney went on to allege that the boy has Reactive Attachment Disorder and has exhibited "longstanding dangerous and disturbing propensities" across "multiple schools, neighborhoods, and homes towards other children and adults over the course of a number of years" and accused the boy of "manipulation."
Following the arrest of Timothy and Tracy, three other children, ages 16, 13, and 2, were removed from the home and taken into custody by the Department of Children and Families.
Their next court date is not known at this time.