KEY POINTS

  • A cage made of wood and metal was found inside the room
  • The autistic child was allegedly kept inside the cage every night
  • The house had no working toilets and no access to food or water

A 43-year-old Florida woman has been charged with child neglect and abuse for allegedly keeping a severely autistic child caged inside her filthy and uninhabitable home.

Melissa Ann Doss of Palm Bay was taken into custody Sunday after officers found a homemade metal and wooden cage where the non-verbal and autistic female child was kept, reported WFLA-TV.

According to arrest records, officers responded to the house on Fillmore Avenue Saturday after receiving a report from a neighbor who had seen a child inside their screened-in patio. Upon arrival, officers found that the child was non-verbal and had a disability.

Officers then learned that the child belonged next door. But when they knocked on Doss' house, she refused to open the front door. Instead, she climbed over the backyard fence to talk to them.

Doss reportedly told officers she had been sleeping and wasn't aware that the child had wandered off. She also refused to let officers inside the house. 

However, the neighbor called the officers again as the child was back at their house. This time, Doss told officers she was "at the end of her rope." Once again, she refused to let officers inside her home. Doss reportedly said, "If you saw the inside of my [residence], DCF [would be called]."

The report did not mention the child's relationship with Doss, except that she was under her care. 

A child protective investigator went into the home the next day. They entered via the back door and were shocked to find the house in a deplorable condition. 

The house reeked of feces and urine and didn't have a working toilet, police said as per Click Orlando

One of the responding officers noted that the house did not have working bathrooms. Doss told officers that they "use the restroom in a bucket and throw the waste in the backyard."

Officers also found trash scattered throughout the house. No part of the floor was visible, and the house had access to neither food nor water. Bugs, spiders and flies infested the residence and a large chunk of its roof was collapsing. Mold was also seen throughout the entire home.

When they stepped into the bedroom, authorities saw the cage near the bed. The child protective investigator learned that Doss and one child shared a bed while the other child was kept inside the metal cage. There was a blanket and a pillow inside of it. Officers said Doss locked the child inside the cage at night. 

The child is now in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families. 

chained Representational image. Photo: Pixabay