The parents of an 11-year-old boy diagnosed with autism were arrested Tuesday night after Anaheim Police discovered that the boy may have been living in a cage inside their home.
Loy Vu, 40, and Trang Le, 35, have both been arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment.
Officers arrived at the home on the 1300 block of South Garrett Street around 6:15 p.m. after receiving a tip and found a large kennel-style cage with a mattress inside.
"There are some signs that someone had been living there, including a mattress," said Anaheim Police Lt. Bob Dunn.
The cage measured about 6-feet tall and 4 1/2-feet wide, Dunn said.
"It was enough for him to be able to stand up in if, in fact, he was living in that cage," Dunn said.
Family members of the boy told police that he can’t communicate and that as he got older, his violent outbursts became difficult to control. The cage was a means to control the boy’s outbursts.
The boy himself was found nourished and well-bathed, police said. He was taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure to ensure there’s no underlying medical condition, police said.
The boy also has two siblings, ages 8 and 10 years old. They have been taken into protective custody.
Upon initial investigation, there are conflicting reports that indicate the boy had been kept in the cage a couple years, months or even hours. The family is of Vietnamese descent and because of language barriers, additional translators will be needed as the investigation continues.
Police also plan to interview other people who live inside the home, including someone not related to the family who rents a room in the home.
Neighbors were stunned by the arrests.
"I hear the kids screaming, laughing and playing out there but I don't know I assumed they were just playing," said neighbor Kathy Johnson.
Bob Emerson said the family appeared to be happy, and the boy appeared healthy.
"They were happy. They would play in the yard. The whole family seemed to be happy," he said.
Members of the autism community, including experts who spoke with NBC4 said they were shocked by the news, but also saddened.
"Maybe they didn't have the skill set or the tools or support to know how to address his behaviors and were helpless," said Peter Thach. "Maybe they resorted to that very desperate situation where they used a cage."
He said a language barrier and access to resources may have prevented the family from asking for help.
"Are the parents being trained on how to deal with his triggers (and) things that set him off?" Thach explained.
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Hetty Chang contributed to this report.