Jury selection under way in child imprisonment trial

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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Jury selection began this morning in the trial of a Vancouver couple accused of locking two young autistic boys in a room with a cagelike door last year.

Selecting a jury, 12 members and two alternates, is expected to last much of the day. Attorneys will begin opening statements once the jury is seated.

Alayna Higdon, 27, and John Eckhart, 31, are charged with unlawful imprisonment of Eckhart's sons between Oct. 1, 2010, and April 12, 2011.

The couple were arrested April 12, 2011, after Vancouver police officers found the boys, ages 5 and 7, locked in a dark room with a metal slatted door inside the couple’s apartment at Springfield Meadows, off Andresen Road.

The defense, based on pretrial hearings, is expected to explore parenting methods of autistic children for the safety of the children.

The trial in Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis' courtroom is scheduled to last one week.