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Bond reduced in abuse case

A bond reduction hearing was held Tuesday morning for two suspects who are being charged in what authorities have called one of the most extreme abuse cases the area has seen.

Laura Cheatham and Daryl Head, both of Farmington, are being charged on four class D felonies of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree and four class D felonies of kidnapping in the second degree. As the investigation continues and more details unfold, they could be facing additional charges.

St. Francois County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Pat King said the defense for both Cheatham and Head called a motion to reduce the bond, and a family member of the children had an opportunity to speak.

“The father of the children spoke and voiced his opposition to the bond reduction,” King said. “I spoke and voiced my opposition to the bond reduction. I characterized it as a series of heinous crimes. It’s not just one, it’s times four, times two. So it’s not just one thing, it is many and I voiced my opposition to that.”

King said after the hearing and over his objection, the judge, Associate Circuit Judge Joe Goff Jr., lowered the bond for each of them from $500,000 to $250,000 cash or surety. If they post bond, upon release each must wear GPS tracking equipment and have no contact with the children.

“This is an alleged heinous crime and a very bad situation,” King said. “I just want to communicate what I communicated to the judge, which was my objection to the bond reduction. This ranks up there and received national attention.”

King said both Cheatham and Head are currently scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 9 at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Goff.

“The judge who lowered the bond is the judge who initially issued the bond and the warrant,” King explained. “His job, at this point, is to hold a preliminary hearing and at that hearing the state puts on evidence, and at the conclusion of that evidence the judge decides whether or not there is enough evidence to have a trial.”

King said at the end of the hearing the judge will say “yes” or “no” on whether there is enough evidence.” If the judge says no, then the case will be dismissed and if he says yes, then he would say upon the evidence he believes there is probable cause that a crime was committed, therefore he will order the defendants be held over for trial and transfer the case over to the circuit court.

“Whichever judge in the circuit court will then set the case for trial,” King said. “The preliminary hearing is the next step in the process … then (following an arraignment in circuit court) after that the judge will set a trial date.”

A hearing last week resulted in a motion to preserve evidence, which was sustained. This means all agencies involved were notified they have to preserve any and all evidence pertaining to the case. This will include hand-written notes, body camera footage, videos, pictures and anything physically collected in the investigation.

According to police reports, on Aug. 7 a deputy with the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department was called to the 100 block of Meadowbrook Road to assist the Missouri Children’s Division with a hotline call involving four children who were being held in deplorable conditions in a boarded-up room in the home.

Head walked from behind the home to meet with the deputy and the Children’s Division worker. The deputy explained the allegations to Head and said that because of the circumstances he would have to go inside the home. The deputy reported that after some hesitation Head opened the door.

Cheatham was seen through the open door unscrewing plywood from small rooms and children coming out from behind the plywood. It was reported there were no windows or lights in the room and vent in the floor had the odor of urine.

A press release stated investigators found that the children were being confined in an area on the main floor of the home wherein two bedrooms had been modified into four smaller rooms that were described as being, “smaller than a jail cell,” with no lighting, and no access to water or toilet facilities.

Three juvenile girls and one boy were placed in the Children’s Division custody while Head and Cheatham were placed under arrest. The children were interviewed extensively and have been placed in the system at this time.

The children were not biological children of the couple, but were adopted by Cheatham and her estranged husband at one point. The children appeared to be in relatively good health and it’s unclear how long the children were being held in the room.

In an earlier interview, St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock said Cheatham was employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections and had recently resigned. He added she had children’s prison uniforms made that she ordered through Prison Industries Clothing Division.

It was reported that she signed off on work for them and told the inmate in charge of the clothing division they were for her kids. The orders were placed back in January and are now in the sheriff department’s possession, along with the patterns to make the little uniforms.

“Why would you order prison uniforms?” Bullock said. “Her boyfriend, Head, had worked at the BJC Behavioral Health as a counselor at some point. From what I understand he was a counselor to those kids and then they ended up together.”

During a press conference on Aug. 7, Bullock said in all his time he has seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing this deplorable here in St. Francois County.

“Myself and the prosecutor have talked about this and we have seen a lot of different things over the years, but this is the kind of thing that happens somewhere else, not here,” Bullock said.

St. Francois County Prosecutor Jerrod Mahurin said anytime you have a case like this and you see these type of conditions it is shocking.

Mahurin said when he sees a case like this and sees the conditions these children were living in, even if it was for a day, it is way too long. He said the fact they may have been there for weeks or any extended period of time, their sole concern now is to make sure the children are protected, taken care of and to seek justice of the people who put them in those conditions.

“The sheriff called me and informed me of the picture and it coincides with what we had the belief of and that is they were being housed in there for a substantial periods of time,” Mahurin said. “This was not something that was a game or some type of time-out. This appears to be the housing of what these children were living in.”









Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or

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