CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Two Cape Girardeau County parents were arrested on charges of child abuse on Saturday, February 20.
James Bradley Hughes, 36, and Rebekah Elizabeth Hughes, 33, both of Old Appleton, Missouri, were charged with child abuse (a class C felony).
James Hughes was also charged with unlawful possession of firearms (also a class C felony).
What authorities found
Authorities are reporting the victim in question, a 15-year-old female, was being held in a small 10' x 8' closeted area on the back porch of the home. The room had been secured by a locked door, able to only be opened from the outside.
The walls were carpeted, authorities believe for sound-proofing purposes, and several windows were screwed shut. She was given a small amount of food and a bucket to use the bathroom in.
Her bed was a small piece of foam and a bed sheet on wooden slats.
The victim was able to jump approximately 10 feet through a window that had been left unsecured on Saturday afternoon, and ran into an off-duty deputy who then called for assistance.
According to court documents, she told the deputy she had just escaped and ran away from her home because her parents had been holding her "captive" inside a "makeshift plywood room" since early Friday morning.
In the probable cause statement, it says the 15-year-old told deputies she was released from a St. Louis facility late on Thursday evening. She told them her parents took her home and put her in a small room and locked her away from the rest of the family.
She claimed she was only given food at the leisure of her parents, allowed bathroom breaks at their leisure and was not allowed to participate in family activities, such as siblings' birthday parties.
Deputies got a search warrant for the home and they say they found a "Blue Bunny" container sitting on the floor of the room that appeared to be clean. They said her food tray was still sitting on the floor and had two sandwiches, an orange and one bottle of water.
According to deputies, outside of the room, which could only be locked and unlocked from the outside, was a laundry area. Inside this room, they say there was a white plastic chain that was consistent with what the victim described as her being tied up with.
They say they also found a wooden paddle with the words "The Bun Burner" burnt into the surface.
Inside an upstairs bedroom, deputies say they found several rounds of various caliber handgun ammunition, along with three different handguns.
The victim's parents are arrested
Rebekah Elizabeth Hughes found out later that night that her daughter had escaped and fled the area in a vehicle with her other two kids.
She was stopped at a New Madrid County truck stop and was arrested by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
James Bradley Hughes showed up at the home later that night while deputies were serving the arrest warrant. He was arrested on site.
The victim is reportedly doing fine and has been placed in the care of family services, along with her two other siblings.
Captain David James believes the victim had been locked in the room from late Thursday, Feb. 18 until Saturday, Feb. 20, when she was able to escape.
Bond for both parents has been set at $50,000 cash, or surety, each with conditions of no contact with the victim and with orders not to leave the state of Missouri.
According to deputies, James Hughes is a convicted felon in the state of Oklahoma from a drug conviction in May 2000.
Rebekah and James Hughes appeared in court via video conference on Monday, Feb. 22.
Rebekah Hughes reached out for her own council. James Hughes requested a bond reduction, along with reaching out for his own council. No decision was made on his bond because he doesn't have a lawyer.
Both cases will be continued on March 7.
Child advocates give insight to child abuse cases
Court Appointed Special Advocates participate in the legal process for children taken into protective custody.
Linda Nash, the executive director for CASA of Southeast Missouri, said reunification with parents can be difficult and drawn out for cases where parents are facing criminal charges.
"If a child's parents have charges against them, most of the time they aren't going to be reunified until those charges are worked out," Nash said. "Depending on the nature of the charges – The court would decide whether the child could be unified or whether they would need to be – to age out – in the instance of a teenager. Or, be adopted by a relative or perhaps a foster parent."
The teen in this case was being treated for her mental health. Nash said in protective custody she will get any medical attention she needs.
"In a foster care incident when a child has special needs," Nash said. "Whether they're mental health needs or other needs the court and Missouri Children's Division works to make sure they get the services that are needed. Those services are spelled out – and if that's counseling of some sort, if that happens to be anger management.. Whatever types of specific needs they have, they do try to address those."