Louisiana parents face felony cruelty charges after authorities say they punished their disobedient 14-year-old son by feeding him only scraps and housing him in a shed with no air conditioning.
The teenager had been sent to live in the shed because he “kept stealing and he would not do chores,” according to the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office. His parents locked their home’s pantry to prevent him from stealing food — and only the boy’s mother, 35-year-old Antoinette Lewis, had the key to get in, deputies said.
Deputies went to the family’s home in Opelousas, Louisiana, on June 23 after hearing reports that a child had been treated cruelly there for several weeks, according to the sheriff’s office. The boy had reportedly told someone that he’d been relying on family members to give him scraps of food.
The 14-year-old was sitting on the home’s front porch when investigators showed up, deputies said. He told detectives it had been days since he had bathed and eaten. He then led detectives to the outdoor shed where he said he’d been living for three weeks, the sheriff’s office said.
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Inside, detectives found a sofa set with a blanket and a pillow, along with clothes piled into a trash bag, according to the sheriff’s office. There was cologne and deodorant sitting on a table, as well as a broken air conditioner.
The boy’s father, 42-year-old Larry Lewis, wasn’t home when detectives arrived because he was at work, according to the sheriff’s office. But his mother Antoinette was — and she admitted to detectives that she was aware her husband had told her son to sleep in the shed “due to his behavior,” deputies said.
Larry Lewis was arrested July 23 on a warrant after he got back from work, deputies said. Antoinette Lewis was also arrested.
“I would never tell parents how to raise their children but there are laws that protect their safety,” Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said in a statement announcing the parents’ arrest. “In this case the parents should have rethought the punishment and found a safer way to discipline their child.”
Both Larry Lewis and Antoinette Lewis face one count of felony cruelty to a juvenile, according to the sheriff’s office. The father is being held on $7,500 bond and the mother on $25,000 bond, deputies said.