JONESBOROUGH, TN (WJHL) – The case of a Jonesborough couple accused of locking a girl in a cage will now go before a grand jury.
Mickey Sparks and Patricia Laws are both charged with child abuse and neglect.
Investigators say they found an autistic girl locked in a wooden cage at a home on Miller Crossing Road in Jonesborough last month.
Sparks and Laws were in court Monday for a preliminary hearing. For the first time, we saw the cage investigators say the girl was kept in.
The state called two witnesses: the Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputy and the Department of Children’s Services investigator who both responded to the home.
Defense attorneys questioned the witnesses, primarily asking what the difference was between the wooden enclosure and a typical play pen.
Both witnesses said the alleged cage was taller than a plan pen and padlocked.
Still, the defense argued Sparks and Laws used it for the child’s safety. They also mentioned the couple setting up cameras around the house to monitor the child.
“Nothing that they did would indicate that they knowingly acted to inflict injury or anything else that they did affected the child’s health,” said defense attorney David Crockett. “There has been no evidence that there has been anything. This child was kept in what’s basically a plan pen that’s been called a cage and a cage and a cage. A cage has a top on it.”
Based on the testimony, the judge said the court did find probable cause to send the case to the grand jury.
Sparks and Laws are set to appear in criminal court on June 7.
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