The children, ages 5, 6 and 8, were crammed into the boxes as punishment June 16 at the family home in Steubenville while the parents went to the grocery store and left two uncles at home with them, a prosecutor said. A friend of the family arrived at the house, got the children out of the boxes and contacted police.
The children "were all basically demonstrating (for authorities) that they were curled up in the fetal position, laying in their backs," prosecutor Jeffrey J. Bruzzese said.
The children were in the boxes for about 15 to 30 minutes, with square holes cut out of the lids to expose the top part of their faces. There was no indication they had been put in the boxes before, but it was part of a cycle of abuse by the parents that included having weights dropped on their feet, Bruzzese said.
The children have been removed from the home and are in good health, the prosecutor said.
James Allen Taylor, 29, and stepmother Samantha Marie Taylor, 26, were indicted this week by a Jefferson County grand jury on charges of endangering children, a felony, and unlawful restraint, a misdemeanor. Each also faced another felony endangering count related to "ongoing corporal punishment practices of the family."
It wasn't clear Friday whether the couple had attorneys, and a working phone number for them couldn't be found.
The two uncles were also indicted. Bruzzese said they helped put the children in the boxes, with one of them cutting the air holes.
Steubenville is on the Ohio-West Virginia border, about 150 miles east of Columbus.