RACINE, Wis. -- (WITI) -- Two people are now criminally charged in connection with the alleged abuse of a 9-year-old child in Racine County. The accused are 46-year-old Gail Lalonde and 48-year-old Dale Deavers. They are currently being held at the Racine County Jail.
Lalonde and Deavers each face the following criminal charges:
Mental harm to child
Maintaining a drug trafficking place
According to the criminal complaint, a school counselor reported to a deputy on September 6 that a "student told her she was being locked in a cage at night." The counselor indicated the child had come to school with a very short haircut. The child told the counselor it was her "punishment" -- to cut her own hair. The counselor interviewed the student and the child said her caregiver "would lock her in an 8-foot-by-4-foot cage, and lock it with a keyed lock." The child indicated she was locked up because she "has been going into medicine cabinets at home and destroying things."
Lalonde lives with Deavers, who owns the residence where the alleged crime took place.
When a deputy went to the home where the child was living, he interviewed Gail Lalonde. He asked Lalonde about a report of a child being locked up in a cage at night. Lalonde responded by saying, "Yes, that is true." Lalonde told the deputy wherever the child has been put to sleep, the child "gets into everything." Lalonde indicated she has been locking the child in the cage for approximately two weeks.
A more detailed search of the home where the child was being cared for turned up an active marijuana grow in the basement with 23 live growing plants, "121.9 grams of marijuana that was dried and ready for use, and extensive equipment for ventilating the room, lights, and irrigation."
The child's father is now coming to the suspects' defense.
"I never expected this to happen -- let alone the severity of it," said Brett Collins.
"The way it's being portrayed is that my mom is this monster, who just puts her in a cage. That's not what it is," Collins said.
Collins said his mother was using the cage as a last resort for a mentally ill little girl who tries to harm herself and others.
"I will admit, the cage was excessive. That was too much, I am hurt by that. But locking her in her room, to protect my other daughter, my mom and her boyfriend, is the only logical thing to do," Collins said.
Collins has not spoken to his daughter or his mother since before the allegations surfaced.
Meanwhile, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling calls this one of the worst cases of alleged child abuse he has ever seen.
"You've seen the photo. Cardboard on the floor, a couple of blankets and a padlock," Schmaling said on Thursday. "I wouldn't treat my own dog that way."
Schmaling says there were no dogs in the house.
"They're locked in a jail cell, where they ought to be," said Schmaling.
The child and a sibling are now in protective custody.
Lalonde and Deavers made their initial appearances in Racine County court on Friday afternoon, September 8. A court commissioner set cash bond for both defendants at $55,000. They are scheduled to be back in court for their preliminary hearings on Wednesday, September 13.