FARMINGTON, Mo. — The adoptive mother at the center of a child abuse case in Farmington wanted her four children to wear prison uniforms, the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
Police said Laura Cheatham, the woman arrested Tuesday in this case, was a former employee of the Missouri Department of Corrections and ordered four child-sized prison inmate uniforms.
Police said Cheatham told the person in charge of the clothing division that the uniforms were for her kids. Investigators for the Farmington Police Department took custody of the uniforms from the Farmington Correctional Center.
A hotline tip led deputies to her home Tuesday, where they say they discovered four dark boxes, no bigger than jail cells. They say Cheatham and Daryl Head barricaded one child in each box, trapping them inside with plywood and screws. They had no access to water or the bathroom.
5 On Your Side discovered Cheatham and Head started a nonprofit last year designed to help children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. They called it RADDLE Inc., Reactive Attachment Disorder - Developing Attachment Through Love and Empathy.
"Reactive attachment disorders can be really challenging for parents,” said Dr. Jennifer Ladage, a SLUCare pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
Ladage says kids with the disorder can be anxious and angry because they're unable to feel comforted or protected by their parents or caregivers.
"You do see it a lot in children from foster care and adopted children because of that early life experience, you know, neglect, multiple caregivers,” she said.
The sheriff tells us Cheatham adopted the four kids in the home with her ex-husband.
At this point, we don't know if the boxes were part of the data collection and research the couple outlined in their mission statement or something else.
Justen and Cheatham, both 38, were charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child, three counts of second-degree kidnapping in connection with the incident.
The investigation is ongoing.