It was among the most shocking stories of 2014 — one whose details seemed too terrible to be true. But apparently they were.
Jena Harman and her boyfriend, Alexander Smith, have reportedly pleaded guilty to keeping her seven-year-old child caged outdoors on their remote Wyoming property — even when the weather turned nasty.
Continue for the head-shaking details.
On July 23, 2014, according to the Laramie Boomerang, deputies in Albany County, Wyoming received a tip that a child was being kept in a cage on the land shared by Harman and Smith.
Law enforcers were familiar with the property: 9News notes that they'd visited there on multiple occasions dating back to February of that year — and the Boomerang reveals that requests for welfare checks and reports of child abuse first cropped up in August 2013.
In July, an affidavit accessed by the paper notes, deputies did indeed find a cage.
It was described as six-feet by six-feet and five-feet in height and was built of cattle paneling and wooden snow fencing, with plywood covering about half of the opening on top.
Inside, deputies are said to have found that the cage was partially furnished: It included a cot, clothes, books, a toothbrush and toothpaste and a five-gallon bucket.
Also on the cage was "a metal chain and a 'dog-leash-style latch,'" the paper revealed.
In a subsequent interview, the child told investigators about being held in the cage on and off for the past three weeks, whether it was raining or not.
More awful details: The child was allegedly only fed once per day, and while he was allowed to urinate outside, he wasn't permitted to defecate there. Instead, he was supposed to "hold...on to it, until they can go to town." And when he was allowed into the house, he had to sleep on the floor.
The family dog slept on the couch, the child told detectives.
How did Harman explain the cage? The Boomerang quotes her as referring to it as the child's "playpen" — although she conceded that she also used it for disciplinary purposes in response to "misbehaving."
The latest? Harman and Smith have now changed their pleas to guilty in regard to two of the four original counts against them: child abuse and felonious restraint.
Punishment for the offenses could net them as much as ten years behind bars. They're expected to be sentenced in April.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Look below to see booking photos for Jena Harman and Alexander Smith.Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.