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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Autistic kids, allegedly imprisoned by parents, to stay in state care”


    Clark County Superior Court commissioner has ordered two autistic boys to stay in state care for now.

    The children, ages 5 and 7, were allegedly held in a caged room in a Vancouver apartment complex by their father, John Eckhart, and his live-in girlfriend, Alayna Higdon. Both face criminal charges of unlawful imprisonment. Higdon is free on bail and Eckhart is expected to be released today after posting bail.

    Through their attorneys, Eckhart, Higdon and the boys’ biological mother, Jona Bronson of Tillamook, Ore., waived temporary placement. Bronson was the only parent present at this morning’s brief hearing before Commissioner Carin Schienberg.

    Bronson’s attorney, Maggie Smith Evansen, told the commissioner that the mother would eventually like to be considered for long-term placement.

    In the interim, children in state care are not allowed to be placed outside Washington, said Assistant Attorney General Dana Gigler, who is representing the Department of State and Health Services.

    The purpose of today’s hearing was to determine temporary placement, not custody, of the boys. A decision about custody could be made at a trial, which is expected to be scheduled at a June 7 hearing.

    This morning, the boys were ordered to remain in the foster care system, and the defendants’ two other boys, ages 9 and 11 months old, will continue to stay with family members. Attorneys at the hearing said the autistic boys are receiving medical evaluations and, assuming they are OK, will be enrolled in school in Yacolt and Vancouver.

    According to investigators, the boys had been living in a bedroom where the door and window had been covered with bars like are commonly used in closets. The boys were wearing diapers and the room was bereft of toys and furnishings, except for one juvenile-sized bedframe and mattress.

    An apartment maintenance worker saw the situation during a routine premises check and notified authorities, who raided the unit last week.

    A 30-day review of the boys’ placement is set for May 10.

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