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Police: Fla. woman kept autistic child in cage

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 11:17 AM CDT
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PALM BAY, Fla. (WESH) – A Florida woman was arrested after allegedly keeping a severely autistic child in a cage.

Melissa Doss, 42, faces charges of aggravated child abuse and child neglect.

Over the weekend, her neighbors called 911 to report a young juvenile had climbed over their fence and was on their screened-in patio.

Police said the girl was nonverbal with a disability.

Doss told police she was unaware the child had escaped from her home.

Investigators learned the girl slept in a “homemade cage made of metal and wood” in Doss’s home.

The police report said Doss told police she shuts the girl inside the cage at night to keep her inside the house.

The report also said that in the morning, the child screams until Doss lets her out of the cage.

The child protective investigator said Doss and another child shared a bed. The officer said the cage was next to it, with a blanket and pillow for the girl.

Police reported deplorable conditions within the house, writing that “the immediate smell of feces and urine was strongly present” and that trash and “bugs of all kinds” – including spiders and flies – were throughout the house, and that no part of the floor was visible throughout the house.

The reports also said parts of the roof were gone, there was mold throughout the house and there were no working bathrooms.

Palm Bay police said Doss told them “they use the restroom in a bucket” and throw their waste in the backyard.

Due to the condition of the home, including no proper food, clothes and water, police arrested Doss.

She appeared before a judge Monday. Her bond was set at more than $20,000.

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