Iowa couple arrested for abusing special needs child, zip-tying him to a chair

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Apr. 22 2021, Updated 8:08 a.m. ET

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A couple in central Iowa was charged on Monday for allegedly neglecting their 16-year-old son with special needs by locking him in a room and withholding food. 

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Jennifer Marie Ryan, 48, and Richard Joe Ryan, 47, were charged with first-degree kidnapping and neglecting a dependent person.

The alleged abuse was discovered when Jennifer Ryan brought her son to work with her at Smith Automotive on Feb. 22, KCCI Des Moines reported.

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According to court documents, she zip-tied him to a chair by her desk by his left ankle and pants belt loop during her eight-hour shift.

A citizen then contacted the Iowa Department of Human Services after seeing the zip-tied teen, according to court records and KCCI.

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“Had it not been for the private citizen that reported this, this could have had a much worst outcome for the victim,” Pleasant Hill Police Detective Tim Brown told KCCI Des Moines.


Doctors diagnosed the child with severe malnutrition, and he weighed 78 pounds when he arrived at the hospital.

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Investigators say the teen was routinely confined to his room, and he could not leave or use the restroom at night without the permission of an escort. His parents allegedly placed an alarm on his door to alert family members if he attempted to leave.

Court documents obtained by KCCI Des Moines say the teenager was not allowed to eat breakfast, but usually ate lunch or dinner, which consisted of leftovers from the day before.

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“(The teen) would sneak food when he could and hide it in his bedroom. If the food was discovered, he was punished by being deprived a meal,” court documents stated. “He also endured physical abuse often being struck in the face or on the head with a wooden back scratcher or repeatedly thrown to the floor.”

The victim allegedly suffered several non-healing cuts and bruises from the abuse and bone deformities to one of his feet, believed to have been caused by wearing shoes that were too small.


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