Trial opens for WA couple accused of caging kids

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VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) -- A prosecutor has told jurors that a Vancouver, Wash., couple kept two young autistic boys in a dark room with a cage-like door for convenience while the defense countered the child-proofing was intended to keep the children from harming themselves.

The opening statements came as the trial of 31-year-old John Eckhart and 27-year-old Alayna Higdon opened Monday in Clark County Superior Court. The couple are charged with unlawful imprisonment of Eckhart's sons, ages 5 and 7, between October 2010 and April 2011.

The Columbian reports that (http://is.gd/yRAMQO) that Deputy Prosecutor Dustin Richardson said Eckhart was known to take hours-long smoking breaks, leaving a 9-year-old child to watch the boys. The prosecution also says the father played video games during the day. A college student, Higdon was away from home most days.

Defense lawyer Jon McMullen says the makeshift caged door was Eckhart's effort to increase the apartment's child safety after less-restrictive measures failed.

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Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com