9 charged after Indiana toddler found locked inside box, police say

NORTH JUDSON, Ind. -- Authorities in northern Indiana have charged three people with neglect after a 3-year-old girl was found locked inside a wooden box for extended periods of time. Six other people, including four teenagers, are charged failure to report child abuse.

WSBT-TV reports reports officers with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant at a home in North Judson on Wednesday and found the girl locked inside a plywood box in the living room.

Forty-two-year-old Donna Short, 25-year-old Christopher Short and 18-year-old Patricia Meeks face neglect charges. It's not clear if they have attorneys who might comment for them.

"I'm devastated by it, you know, if they didn't want them. I've tried to tell them all, I'll take them in a minute," Frank Jackson, the child's grandfather, told WBND.

Jackson has been working to gain custody of his two grandchildren since his daughter died two years ago.The 3-year-old girl found in the box has an older brother who is 7 years old.

"I just don't understand why they could do this to the kids, knowing there's a good home for them to go to," Jackson said.

"Oh, it just breaks your heart, and even the other kid in the house, just looking at it, you think, my God, how did this happen?" Pulaski County Sheriff Jeffery Richwine said.

Sheriff Richwine said that while maybe not this severe, cases of child abuse are all too common.

"We see this on a regular basis, to be quite honest, I think. I think we see kids putting back in the house that should never be in there, I think," Sheriff Richwine said.

"I mean if you can lock a child in a box for long periods of time, who knows what he's capable of?" Jackson said.

Both think the problem is in Child Protective Services' policy.

"I've heard several DCS people say that their plan is to put families back together. Somewhere you got to say that's probably not the best environment for these kids whose parents can't and won't get their acts together," Sheriff Richwine said.

Which is what Jackson has been saying to the point of exhaustion.

"I'm just mentally wore out," he said.

In the meantime, the sheriff has a short-term plan so that innocent children end up in loving homes, instead of boxes.

"We've gotten with the prosecutor, and what we've decided we're going to do is start arresting people for neglect," Sheriff Richwine said.

It wasn't clear why the girl was locked inside the box. She and five juveniles were released to the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.