Police have arrested a doctor and his wife in Sarasota, Florida after it was found that they were ill-treating their adopted daughter. Eugenio Erquiaga and his wife Victoria confessed to routinely tying up their daughter using plastic zip ties and keeping her locked up in a 5-by-7ft playhouse which one investigating office described as a "glorified cage".
The 12-year old girl was not allowed to get out of the playhouse even to use the rest room. Sarasota County Sheriff's Office deputies stated that on 27 December, the girl managed to escape and made her way to a neighbour's house.
The 19-year-old neighbour, Sean Macindoe, told WTSP that the girl was still bound with zip ties, when she knocked on the door. "I can't see anyone tying up any child in that manner," Scott Mackindoe, Sean's father told the press.
"She wasn't allowed to leave the playhouse to use the restroom. She'd have to do all that inside the house the playhouse," Lieutenant Joe Giasone, Criminal Investigative Section for the Sheriff's Office said.
The couple claimed that they had started tying up their daughter after seeing the method used on a police show on TV. They allegedly told police they were doing it to protect their six other children from the girl's violent outbursts.
The couple's attorney, Derek Byrd, who will defend them against charges of aggravated assault said, "I'm certain any people in the public would say that's not the way they would handle it and they're entitled to their opinion. The question is, is it criminal to handle a problematic child that way?"
The other six Erquiaga children (two adopted and four biological) show no signs of being ill-treated and are currently in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.