Couple accused of locking child in cage get probation

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JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee couple accused of locking an autistic child in a cage have been given probation after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

News outlets report Mickey Sparks and Patricia Laws pleaded guilty Thursday to child neglect in Washington County. Each is to serve a year of probation. They had been charged with aggravated child neglect prior to the plea deal.

Thanks to the deal, they faced a charge of child neglect.

Investigators said they found the then-10-year-old girl locked inside a cage in the couple's Jonesborough home in February 2017 and determined the couple had been using it for years. Sparks and Laws admitted to using it for three to four years.

Deputies reported the wooden cage was sitting on a mattress and had a lock on it. They described it as smelling of urine and feces.

She was removed from the home and is in state care. Three other children living in the home were also removed by the Department of Children's Services.