TOWN OF NORWAY — A grandmother charged with causing mental harm to a child for recently locking a 9-year-old girl in a dog cage said she was only trying to keep a troubled, sometimes self-destructive girl safe.
Gail LaLonde and Dale Deavers are also each charged with a felony for allegedly maintaining a marijuana-growing operation in the basement of the Town of Norway home.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling on Thursday announced the arrests of Gail LaLonde, 46, the girl’s guardian, and Dale Deavers, 48, owner of the Norway home where the girl had recently been sleeping in a dog cage.
They were both charged Friday with causing mental harm to a child, false imprisonment and manufacture or delivery of THC. Friday, both made their first appearance in court, on video screen from the Racine County Jail. Probable cause was found to charge them, and $55,000 cash bonds were set for each.
According to their criminal complaints, a deputy was dispatched Wednesday to an elementary school in the Town of Norway after a school counselor called authorities. The caging was uncovered when the girl showed up at school that day with a very short haircut. When her teacher asked about it, the girl said the short haircut was punishment from LaLonde, her grandmother, after the girl tried to cut her own hair. The girl then said her grandmother also was locking her in a cage at night.
The counselor said the girl told her she was locked in the cage because she had been into medicine cabinets at night and destroying things, the criminal complaint states. She said LaLonde had cut her hair short because she’d cut it herself and it was not right.
The school social worker also reportedly told an investigator she knows the girl has medical and psychological conditions and experienced substantial emotional trauma during her early childhood, before this incident. The counselor said this has caused the girl to be continually concerned for her own safety, and she will act out when she feels her safety is being violated.
The social worker also reportedly said LaLonde claims the girl is “psychotic” and eats inappropriate things like erasers, or things that could be poisonous. The counselor said locking the girl in a cage in a basement would increase her feelings of insecurity and fear for her safety and cause further emotional harm.
‘Trying to keep her safe’
The complaint states that the investigator, after talking with school officials, went to LaLonde’s home and was invited in. When asked about caging the girl at night, LaLonde reportedly replied, “Yes, that’s true … she hurts animals, threatens to kill us, eats Ridex and cleaner. I’m trying to keep her safe.”
LaLonde also claimed that wherever she has put the girl to sleep, she gets into everything and will ingest “anything she can get her hands on,” the criminal complaint states. LaLonde said she had been locking the girl into the cage at night for about two weeks.
An investigator later learned Deavers had bought the 4- by 8-foot cage, which measured 4 feet 10 inches tall, at Menards on Aug. 31. According to the Racine County Sheriff’s Office, on the floor of the cage was cardboard from the box the cage came in, and a few blankets. There was no pillow. The girl was locked in the cage from 8 p.m. each night until about 7 a.m. the next day, and also occasionally during throughout the day.
The girl and another sibling have been removed from the residence and placed into protective custody by Racine County Human Services. The Sheriff’s Office is trying to locate her parents.
During the course of the investigation, in searching the residence a pot-growing operation was found behind a false wall in the basement, the complaint states. Investigators reportedly found 23 live marijuana plants, 121.9 grams of pot dried and ready for use and “extensive” equipment for ventilating the room, lights and irrigation. The growing operation was dismantled.
LaLonde and Deavers are scheduled to make their first appearance in Racine County Circuit Court at 1:30 p.m.
The Class F felony of mental harm to a child can be punished by up to 7 ½ years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine. The other two charges can each be punished by up to three years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.