Wis. mom accused of keeping autistic son locked up

Published On: Jul 11 2013 02:22:33 PM CDT
Police lights file
MILWAUKEE (AP) -

A Racine mother and her boyfriend are accused of locking her autistic adult son in the basement for more than two years, forcing him to relieve himself in a bucket and allowing him upstairs only to brush his teeth or wash his face.

Teri L. Allen, 51, and Sarkis A. Asdigian, 43, were charged this week with being parties to the crime of abusing an at-risk person. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Prosecutors say James Allen has Asperger's syndrome. His age was not listed in the criminal complaint.

His case is being handled by the state's protective services for adults, not children, and the district attorney's office did not immediately return a message Thursday.

James Allen's grandmother called police last month asking that officers check on him, according to the complaint, and told police he was being kept in his mother's locked basement and shocked with a dog collar.

An officer who responded was told James Allen was sleeping in the basement. Teri Allen grabbed a set of keys, and when the officer asked her why she needed keys she replied, "Because he's locked in the basement," the criminal complaint said.

Teri Allen told the officer that her son stayed in the basement and relieves himself in a bucket with a toilet seat on it, the complaint said. She also told investigators her son had no way to leave the basement because the door was locked and the windows didn't open.

She also told an agent with Adult Protective Services that she sometimes fed her son through a hole in the wall when she was "being lazy" and didn't feel like walking around the kitchen to get to the basement door, the complaint said.

Asdigian told investigators that James Allen had been staying at the home for more than two years, and that he initially stayed in an upstairs bedroom. Asdigian said he installed a lock on the bedroom door so Allen couldn't come out, and he'd be locked inside for up to a week at a time.

Eventually, Allen was moved to the basement, where Asdigian installed a deadbolt lock, prosecutors said.

A message for Allen was not immediately returned Thursday. No working number for Asdigian was immediately found. Online court records didn't specify a defense attorney for them.

It's not clear from the complaint how much freedom James Allen was given. Asdigian said Allen was only locked in for eight hours at night, while Teri Allen said she locked him in the basement for several hours during the day as she ran errands.

Prosecutors said the basement was unfinished and that James Allen slept on a dirty twin bed with a quilt and blanket but no sheets. He told investigators he keeps the space heater close to his bed "because it gets very cold down here, especially in the winter."

He also told police Asdigian recently punched him in the face and that he hadn't showered in a while because it takes a lot of time to wash his face and brush his teeth.

Teri Allen, who is free on a $500 cash bond, is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Wednesday. Asdagian is due in court the following week.