Police Rescue Naked Teen Found Chained to Door, Forced to Sleep in Dog Crate
PRATTVILLE, AL — An Alabama judge struggled to maintain her composure while hearing horrific claims of abuse lodged against a mom, stepdad, and grandmother after police found a naked 13-year-old boy chained to a door.
Police initially charged three adults — the teen’s mother, Danielle Martin, 32; his stepfather, Joshua Martin, 26; and his grandmother, Vickie Seale Higginbotham, 58 — with torture and willful abuse of a child under 18.
On the afternoon of September 20, an anonymous caller phoned the Autauga Sheriff’s Office to report a child in danger at a home in Prattville. “The caller stated they had information that a juvenile was being abused in the home by being restrained with chains,” officials said in a statement.
Deputies responding to the scene discovered the boy “naked with chains” and “padlocked around his ankles.” “The chains were attached to a door preventing the juvenile from normal movement,” said police, noting the child had been held captive “over a long period of time.”
During a September 24 court hearing, the Montgomery Advertiser reported testimony emerged that the boy was sequestered nude in his tiny closet-like room during the day and forced to sleep in a dog crate at night on more than one occasion.
“We didn’t know what she did,” the child’s mom, Danielle Martin, told Autauga County District Judge Joy Booth. “My mother has a mind of her own. I tried to stop her when she put him in the dog crate.”
Judge Booth refused to accept the excuse, asking the defendant: “You tell me you didn’t know what was going on? You lived in that house. You walked past this child like this? I … not even … I’m through with you!”
At one point, Judge Booth asked the child’s mother if she was on drugs, and Martin claimed that she was not. Booth replied, “That fact that you’re not on drugs makes it worse!”
Joshua Martin insisted he too wasn’t aware of his stepson’s abuse because he was gone from 6 A.M. until late in the evening for his job.
When Higginbotham had her turn before the court, she took all responsibility for the mistreatment of her grandson. “My son-in-law had nothing to do with this,” she claimed. “He works all the time. My daughter had nothing to do with this. I did this. They didn’t do anything. I made a bad decision with the child.”
“I didn’t know what to do with the child,” Higginbotham continued. “I did what was done to me when I was a child.”
The Department of Human Resources took the abused boy into their custody, and he received care for malnutrition at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. A 12-year-old and a 5-year-old were also removed from the residence. It was unclear if the two younger children suffered any mistreatment.
“Don’t worry,” Judge Booth told the victim’s paternal grandparents and the other two kids’ relatives during Monday’s hearing. “The children are safe now and are going to be protected.”
After police discovered the boy had been chained for 18 hours by the time they freed him, charges against the Martins and Higginbotham were upgraded to aggravated child abuse, a Class B felony punishable by a sentence of between two and 20 years behind bars.
The trio is being held on $30,000 bond each at the Autauga Metro Jail.