VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - A Washington state couple accused of keeping two autistic boys in a caged room have pleaded not guilty to criminal mistreatment and unlawful imprisonment charges.
Thirty-year-old John Eckhart and his 26-year-old girlfriend, Alayna Higdon, were arrested after the boys — ages 5 and 7 — were found April 12 in a Vancouver apartment room with a cage-like door.
Eckhart and Higdon both entered not guilty pleas Wednesday morning at an arraignment hearing in Clark County Superior Court in Vancouver.
The boys are in state foster care, pending a custody hearing. The biological mother, Jona Bronson, of Tillamook, Ore., is seeking long-term placement.