published Friday, January 31st, 2014

Covington couple charged with child abuse

COVINGTON, Tenn. — A West Tennessee couple is facing abuse charges for locking their adopted daughters in their bedroom and keeping their brother in a backyard storage shed, authorities said Friday.

Will Earnest Cater, 53, and his wife Wylie Sue Cater, 43, were arrested Tuesday in Covington and charged with false imprisonment and child abuse, the Tipton County Sheriff's Office said. They were being held Friday on $100,000 bond each, pending their arraignment Feb. 11. Court records do not show if they have a lawyer.

A 17-year-old girl reported that she and her 12-year-old sister were kept locked in their bedroom, allowed to leave only for school in the mornings, the sheriff's office said. The girls were fed in the room, which contained a commode and had its windows screwed shut, authorities said.

The sheriff's office says the girls' 14-year-old brother was housed in an uninsulated storage shed in the backyard. The shed also had a commode but it had no electricity or running water.

"The lighting in the living space was a mechanics work lamp on an electrical cord," Tipton County Sheriff J.T. "Pancho" Chumley said in a news release.

The boy was allowed to come inside the house in the mornings for breakfast before going to school and returned to the shed after school, authorities said. An investigation showed that the boy was seriously emotionally disturbed, the sheriff's office said.

Authorities said the children were living in those conditions for six months because they were being disciplined. The children have been removed from the custody of the Caters and placed in foster care by the state Department of Children's Services.

The department had no prior involvement with the Caters until it was alerted to the situation, DCS spokesman Rob Johnson said. The sheriff's office describes the Caters as the children's custodial adoptive parents.

The Caters were arrested during a traffic stop. The couple acknowledged confining the children, the sheriff's office said.

Chumley called the investigation disturbing.

"We are making certain that these children are receiving all the needed services," he said.

Covington is about 35 miles north-northeast of Memphis.

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