DEXTER, Minn. -- In her 25 years of law enforcement, Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi says it's the worst case of child abuse she has ever seen.
Two brothers, ages eight and five, were imprisoned in their bedrooms and deprived of food by their parents, allowed to leave only to go to school, according to a criminal complaint.
The 5-year-old had it worst. The complaint says he was chained by the ankle, day and night, to a crib with no mattress.
Unable to free himself, even to go to the bathroom, the boy's room smelled of urine, according to an investigator who visited the home.
The investigator found the boy's mattress leaning against a wall. He'd been sleeping on the board at the bottom of the crib. His mother told the investigator she removed the mattress because the five-year-old picked at the mattress cover and ripped it.
"What's a little boy supposed to do?" asked Sheriff Amazi, "Twelve hours a night being chained to a bed."
Arrested were the boy's father, 33-year-old Brian Miller and his 26-year-old wife Charity Miller, a nurse who told investigators she was working at a senior facility in Rochester.
"As a parent you would never treat your kids like this, so I don't call these people parents," said Amazi.
Charity Miller told the investigator she knew it was wrong to chain a child to his bed.
The boys told investigators they were often hungry, the reason for the foot-long metal chain and padlock investigators found attached to the crib. Amazi said Charity Miller indicated the chain was meant to keep the boy from getting into things. "But basically it was to keep the boy from getting into food. Their lives kind of centered around the food."
During an examination at the Austin Medical Center, an investigator observed brownish lines around the five-year-old boy's left ankle. The investigator noted the boy's ankle and foot were also bruised and appeared to be swollen.
The boy told the investigator the chain "gets real tight" and hurts a lot. His 8-year-old brother said he hears his brother crying every night. He told investigators he too was chained in his bedroom at a previous home until he learned to stop getting up to look for food.
"I probably treat my dogs better than these boys were treated," said Amazi, who credited a staff member at the 5-year-old boy's school for alerting authorities.
The Millers are now each charged with seven counts of child abuse, child neglect, malicious punishment of a child and false imprisonment. Amazi said the gross misdemeanors could be upgraded to felonies after physical examinations of the children are completed.
The criminal complaint says both boys are small for their ages, possibly due to malnourishment.
The boys were placed in protective custody following their parents' arrest. The Millers were arrested last week and freed on Tuesday after they each posted a $50,000 bond.
Wednesday night a steel gate at the end of their driveway was locked by a chain and padlock.
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