Ind. couple allegedly kept teenager in dog cage

Vernon D. Widner and Tina Louise Graham
CBS Chicago

(CBS) CROWN POINT, Ind. - A teen boy told authorities his mother and her fiance kept him locked in a dog cage and abused him over several months.

The Lowell, Ind. couple has been charged with several felonies, police say.

CBS Chicago reports the criminal complaint issued last week says Vernon D. Widner, 55, and Tina Louise Graham, 40, habitually abused Graham's teenage son between Aug. 2008 and Jan. 2011. One of the abuses allegedly involved keeping him in a dog kennel in their home.

He described the worst time of being locked in the kennel occurring on a particular Saturday when he was "locked in the kennel in the morning and not permitted to exit the kennel until the next day," an investigator said in a probable cause affidavit. "His mother and her fiance would regularly eat dinner and stare at him or mock him while he remained locked in the kennel."

Investigators have been compiling allegations against the couple over the past year. The boy, who has a history of behavioral problems, was in foster care, court documents say.

The alleged victim was 14 as of January 2011.

In addition to putting the teenager in a cage for hours on end, the couple allegedly whipped him and threatened him with a knife and gun.

The couple faces charges of criminal confinement, battery and neglect of a dependent. The two denied they've abused the boy during interviews with law enforcement officials.

Their next court appearance is Jan. 6, according to the prosecutor's office.