Laura Cheatham is the Missouri woman accused of keeping her four adopted children locked up in wooden boxes in her Farmingdale home. Cheatham and her partner, Daryl Head, were arrested this week and charged with kidnapping and child endangerment. Authorities said that the children had been living in spaces “no bigger than a jail cell” with no windows, lighting, or plumbing.
Cheatham worked for the Missouri Department of Corrections. Local media reports that she had just ordered — and had not yet received — four child-size prison uniforms from Prison Industries Clothing Division. Cheatham apparently told the division that the uniforms were meant for her kids. Police took the uniforms in as evidence after they arrested Cheatham and her partner, Daryl Head.
Here’s what you need to know about Laura Cheatham:
1. Police Say Cheatham Was Keeping Her Kids Locked Into Rooms The Size of Jail Cells, Which She Had Built Out of Plywood and Screws
Cheatham has four adopted children — three girls and a boy — all between the ages of 5 and 12. She adopted them along with her husband — but Cheatham and her husband had become estranged, and she was now living with another man in her house, Daryl Head.
Authorities say that Cheatham was forcing her children to live inside four small boxes — each no larger than a jail cell, and closed up from the outside with plywood and screws. Police say the children may have been kept in those boxes for weeks, although there is still not way to be sure.
The children had no access to water, light, or to a bathroom, and the house reportedly stank of urine. Police said the four small rooms were constructed in such a way as to keep out the light — and they said the children were probably using the vents in the floor as a bathroom, having no other choice.
2. Laura Cheatham Worked For the Missouri Department of Corrections. She Recently Ordered Prison Uniforms For Her Kids
What is clear is that back in January, Cheatham ordered child-size prison uniforms — and told the inmate in charge of taking orders for clothing that the uniforms were “for her kids.” Farmington’s department of correction apparently filled the order but hadn’t yet shipped it out to Cheatham. Police said the department of corrections contacted them to tell them about the order after seeing the news about Cheatham’s arrest on Tuesday night.
Police found the four jumpsuits — two blue, and two orange — at Farmington Correctional Center along with cardboard patterns that are marked “kids pants”, ‘kids shirt.” You can see the uniforms pictured here.
3. Cheatham’s Boyfriend, Daryl Head, Was a Counselor Who Worked With Children. He Had Already Been Barred From Working With the Local School District
Cheatham and her husband adopted four children together — three girls and a boy, all aged under 12. But Cheatham and her husband are estranged now, and Cheatham was living with a new guy — Daryl Head. Police say Head was involved in the child abuse and has been charged with child abuse and kidnapping, just as Cheatham has.
Head worked as a “community support specialist” from June 2016 to June 2018 with BJC Healthcare. In his capacity as a child counselor, Head worked with children in several school districts. However, there were some “issues” that arose, and Head was not allowed to work with the schools any longer. There are no details available about what happened with Head at the schools. But after his arrest, the superintendent of Farmington’s R-7 school district released the following statement:
“We have a very good working relationship with BJC and this situation is obviously sad and unfortunate. Daryl Head did not work for our school district but in his capacity did work with school districts in our area. We did have issues with him and ask that he no longer work with Farmington schools. Student and staff safety is and will continue to be one of our district focus areas. ”
St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock told reporters that Head may have counseled Cheatham’s children, too — and that may be how the couple met in the first place.
4. Cheatham Adopted the Children With Her Husband, Richard. Neighbors Said They Routinely Saw The Four Kids Outside Doing Hard Manual Labor
Cheatham and her husband, Richard, have become estranged, and Richard’s whereabouts are not public.
There is a Facebook account in the name of Laura Cheatham, living in Farmington, Missouri, with four children — three girls and a boy. It’s not certain whether this is the same Laura Cheatham. But you can take a look at the account here.
Cheatham’s neighbors say they often saw her four kids doing manual labor, including sawing the plywood which may have been used to keep them trapped in their boxes. But in spite of their living conditions, the children were reportedly in good health when police found them.
They have been put in government care.
5. If Convicted, Cheatham and Head Could Spend Decades in Jail
Cheatham and Head have both been charged with four counts of second-degree kidnapping and endangering a child. Their bail was set at two million dollars each.
If convicted, they could face decades in prison, prosecuting attorney Jerrod Mahurin said. Kidnapping can carry up to 20 years in jail, depending on the severity of the case. Second degree kidnapping — which is what Cheatham and Head are charged with — normally has a minimum sentence of five years.