Two Accused Of Keeping Child In Cage
An Albany County woman who is accused of keeping her seven-year-old child in a cage made her appearance for a preliminary hearing in Albany County Circuit Court today. Jena Harman, the mother of the child, is being charged with one count of child abuse and three counts of felonious restraint. Her boyfriend, Alexander "George" Smith faces the same charges. Both are currently being held on a $100,000 cash bond.
According to court documents released by Albany County District Court, Harman and Smith are accused of keeping the seven-year-old boy in a cage for several weeks. According to the affidavit, police received an anonymous complaint last Wednesday, July 23 that a child was being kept in a cage on Fox Creek Road. The caller informed police that the boy had spent a lot of time in the cage starting in June of this year.
Documents show that police made an attempt that night to locate the cage with night vision scopes, but were unable to do so. Police then went to the property around 9:00 a.m. the morning of Thursday, July 24 and found that Harman and her boyfriend Alexander “George” Smith were both asleep.
According to the affidavit, police then located the boy who was in a cage that was approximately 6 feet by 6 feet square and five feet tall. The cage was made from cattle paneling and wooden snow fence with plywood covering half of the top of. The cage was secured with a chain “with a locking carabineer on one end, and a dog leash style latch on the other”, according to the documents.
Officers observed the child sitting on a cot inside the cage. Several pairs of shoes, a toothbrush, books, clothing, a jacket and a five gallon bucket were all found inside the cage as well.
The child was brought into protective custody at that time. According to the affidavit, neither Harman nor Smith seemed concerned about the child being taken into protective custody.
Documents say that police spoke with the boy that day, who told them he had been in the cage for a few weeks. The child told officers that Harman and Smith put him in the cage because Smith wanted him to be in it. He also told authorities that he would sleep in the cage but used to sleep on the floor in the apartment or on the couch. He also said sometimes his mom would let him out of the cage when Smith was not around. He also said they usually brought him food at least once a day. The boy told authorities that when it rained he would have to stay outside, but that he had a roof now because he was good. In addition, he informed police that sometimes Harman and Smith would kick him when he was bad.
Harman and Smith were also questioned separately on Thursday, July 24. Both told authorities that they kept the child in the cage or “play pen” for his own good. They said that he would get into trouble if they weren’t watching him, so they had to keep him in it. According to the documents, Harman told officers that Smith had built the cage in June. She said that she would bring the boy in when it was supposed to rain, but could think of at least one time when she did not. She said that she knew they had made it impossible for the child to escape the cage, but she would let him out when Smith was not home.
According to the affidavit, Smith told authorities that he had originally built the cage for the dog, but the child liked to be in the cage. He said that the boy would usually just sit in the cage and not speak with him. Smith continued to mention that the boy was not his child and they did not like one another.
In addition, the affidavit released by District Court outlines seven welfare checks and one report of abuse ranging from August 2013 until May 2014. Complaints included the boy having injuries from possible abuse, wearing the same clothes to school multiple days in a row, his smelling of urine, not attending school and his being hungry and saying he did not eat much at home.
Harman is being represented by Ross McKelvey from the Public Defender’s Office. Josh Merseal is prosecuting.
If convicted on all four counts, both Harman and Smith could face up to 20 years imprisonment.