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More details emerge in abuse

While this house appears normal on the outside, what was going on inside has left authorities in disbelief.

More details are being released regarding the abuse of four Farmington children who were being held in deplorable conditions in a boarded-up room in the 100 block of Meadowbrook Road.

St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock said one suspect, 38-year-old Laura Cheatham, was employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections and 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.

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More details emerge in abuse

It was discovered that former Missouri Department of Corrections employee Laura Cheatham had small prison uniforms made for her children at the prison.

The deputy who took the initial call Tuesday afternoon went out to the Farmington Correctional Center and was conducting interviews with the inmate.

“They make all of the prisoners’ clothes in the prison, but the public can order stuff as well,” Bullock said. “They make everything there, such as deer stands and cattle feeders. She did work there, but has resigned.”

Bullock said DOC contacted them after they saw the news Tuesday evening and they shared that information.

Bullock said they don’t have everything tied together yet, but it is looking really bad.

“Why would you order prison uniforms?” Bullock said. “Her boyfriend, 38-year-old Daryl 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 Tuesday evening, 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.

“One thing we were talking about earlier is when you see these type of cases, you step back and say that is something you read in a magazine or you’ve seen in a science fiction book,” Mahurin said. “But this is something that is real and there actually are people who would shock you with the things you read and the things that come across your desk.”

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.”

He added he doesn’t have the search warrant return yet and is expecting it in the next couple of days. Once they get that in he will have some more answers.

What they do know

Cheatham and Head, 38, both of Farmington, are being charged and held on a $500,000 bond each 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.

A deputy with the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department was called to assist the Missouri Children’s Division with a hotline call. The deputy was informed of allegations the children were being confined in a room with plywood and screws.

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.

This is a developing story and the Daily Journal will bring more details as they become available.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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