An anonymous tip led police officers in Tangipahoa Parish of Amite, Louisiana to discover an autistic woman who authorities now believe was kept as a prisoner by five of her distant family members.
The 22-year-old autistic woman was found wandering the backyard of her home. She showed obvious signs of being malnourished for a very long time. Her body was also thoroughly covered in bug bites.
Authorities now believe that her captors forced her into prostitution, to perform unwanted sexual acts with other individuals in exchange for money. The five distant family members have been arrested.
The Autistic Woman Has The Functional Capacity Of A Child
Sheriff Daniel Edwards of Tangipahoa Parish spoke out and said that the now 22-year-old autistic woman used to live in the same house as her mother. The mother, however, passed away in August 2015. It is unclear when the woman’s remote family moved in but a thorough investigation of the scene has led police to believe she had been forced to live in a cage in the backyard since October 2015.
According to authorities at the scene, the makeshift cage was like a dog kennel and it was only 6-by-8-foot big. It was constantly covered with a blue plastic tarp. Inside the cage, police officers found a 5-gallon bucket which served as a bathroom, a small food bowl, a mattress, as well as a few of the autistic woman’s personal belongings.
No water or lighting was found inside the cage in which the woman was kept for over nine months.
The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff has also stated that her captors allowed the woman to quietly wander the yard during the day but forced her back into the cage at night time. The autistic woman was allegedly threatened to be killed if she were to make any attempt of escape.
For the duration of her unlawful imprisonment, the woman was allegedly forced to perform unwanted sexual acts on men. Medical specialists estimate that during her capture, the rough conditions forced the woman’s body weight to diminish by 60 pounds. A large surface of her body was covered in sores and large bug bites that had infected.
Terry Knope, 43, and Raylaine Knope, 40, along with their three step-siblings, Taylor Knope, 18, Jody Lambert, 21, and Bridget Lambert, 19, have been placed under arrest with the charges of human trafficking and cruelty to the infirm.
Police officers also found four young children under the age of seven in the house. Police have established that they were not the victims of any sexual abuse. The children have been placed in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. The autistic woman is in a slow recovery and has been placed in the care of the Louisiana Department of Health, Adult/Elderly Protective Services.
Image Courtesy of WDSU.