Fri. May 13th, 2022

14-Year-Old Begged Officers to Arrest Him to Avoid Going Back to Abusive Home

What started as a missing person’s case ended in the arrest of a couple who were abusing their adopted son. On February 7th, 2022, Tracy Christine Ferriter and Timothy Dunne Ferriter were arrested in Jupiter, Florida, facing charges of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment after police found that they were keeping their 14-year-old adopted son locked up in an 8’ x 8’ room in the garage built specifically for this purpose, as well as physical and psychologically abusing him.

First Call Regarding the Residence

In late December 2021, a call came into the Jupiter Police Department by a man named “Jack”. Jack told officers that he was contacted by the owners of 277 Crane Point, North Jupiter, Tracy and Timothy Ferriter, to construct an office in their garage. Jack accepted the offer but began to find the situation strange when he was given more instructions regarding the construction. Tracy and Timothy Ferriter wanted the office to be made abnormally small, 8 feet long and 8 feet wide, with its own ceiling and door. They wanted the door to lock from the outside with both a knob lock and a deadbolt. The room was to be built with electricity and a window for an air conditioning unit. Lastly, a camera was to be installed in the ceiling. The job was completed over the span of two days. It is not apparent when the room was actually constructed.

Ferriter Holiday Photo 2020

Missing Person’s Report

 On January 28th, 2022, Tracy Ferriter reported her adopted son, who’s name has not been made public, missing after she received a call at 3:45 p.m. that he was not in his last class, and he failed to turn up when she went to pick him up from school.  Tracy Ferriter told the responding officer that her adopted son had several behavioral disorders and had run away in the past. She speculated that he had ran away because he had gotten into trouble at school the day before.

Two days later authorities returned to the Ferriter residence to see if their missing son had returned but no one responded to their knocking. The officers then called Tracy who said that she wasn’t home and that her son had not returned. It was later confirmed that she was at a softball tournament with her other children and husband. The officers asked if they could enter the house and check for their son, but she declined.

At 10 P.M. one of the officers that responded to the original missing person’s call and another officer came back to the residence, this time catching Tracy at the house. After learning that her missing son still had not returned, officers asked again to go into the residence and look for clues of where he may have gone. She first declined, stating that she was uncomfortable having officers in her house without her husband being home. After a long discussion, she decided that the one officer could go inside, but the one who responded to the original missing person’s call had to stay outside.

The officer was first directed to a room right inside the front door to the right. It was a small office that had been converted into a bedroom. A small crib was situated on the left side of the room and on the floor, there was a small flannel blanket and a pillow. She explained that her missing son shared the room with her toddler child. The room was painted and lively, and there were several small toys and belongings meant for small children. When the officer asked where the missing son’s belongings were, she took the officer through the kitchen to the Florida room where she said he had some of his toys and belongings. While there she stated that there was a “structure” that the family had built in the garage for the missing son.

The Garage Room

The police officer was brought by Tracy to a small room in the garage with a plain white door that had a doorknob and a deadbolt, both of which locked from the exterior of the room. To the left of the door was a light switch that allowed the lights to be turned off from the outside of the room. Inside of the room was a smell box spring and mattress, a grey sheet and pillow, a small dark colored desk with schoolbooks and small children’s books, a foldable chair, and a bucket. The walls were not painted in this room, appearing to be plain drywall. Similarly, the floor was simply bare garage floor with part of an indoor-outdoor rug on it. Above the mattress was a Ring brand camera.

Tracy Ferriter had several explanations regarding the purpose and use of this room. First, she stated that it was an office constructed for her husband to work in. When the officer asked about why it locked from the outside, she said that the room was used for storage. She also stated that it was used by “all of the children” at one point. When asked about the box spring and mattress, she conceded that it was “sometimes used by” her missing son.

Finding the Missing Boy

On January 31st, 2022, officers from the Jupiter Police Department went to his school, Independence Middle School, to speak with teachers and staff where they advised the officers that the missing 14-year-old had not returned to school but that they would contact the officers if he turned up. Around 11 A.M. that same day, a school police officer phoned the officers working on the missing person’s case to say that he thought he saw the boy on security cameras at the school. The officers returned and sent a drone up to look for him. Through this method he was found running near the front of the campus.

First Interview with Son

The now-found adopted son was taken to the police department for a fact-finding interview. Here he stated that he lived with his three siblings (3 years old, 12 years old, and 15 years old) and his parents. He was then instructed to explain how a typical day went for him. In response he said that in the morning he is woken up by Timothy because his “door is locked”, where he would be told to go to the bathroom before going back to his room where the door would be locked and typically the lights turned off. He stated that he would remain in his room until his parents finished dropping off other siblings at school, then would be fed a breakfast of a banana and peanut butter on bread. Once he finished eating, he would get dressed and go to school, but after school he would be locked back in his room. When asked if he ever shared a room with his youngest sibling, he said he did not.  

He was then asked to describe the room that he would be locked in. He said that it was 8’ x 8’, had a doorknob and deadbolt, and a light switch on the outside, exactly like the room officers had seen in the garage.  When asked how often he had to stay in his room, he simply said “a lot”, and stated that he had been locked in the room daily, sometimes up to 16-18 hours. The interviewing officer asked at one point if he was home would he be playing with his friends or family and he said that he would not be, instead he would be reading books in his room. He continued that he was not allowed to go anywhere else in the house and that if he is not inside of his room, he is doing yard work or is at school. Even his meals were eaten in his room, which consisted of leftovers after the rest of the family finished eating.

Inside a 14-year-old's 8x8 garage 'room' and the punishments he endured |  KABB
Timothy Ferriter

Officers inquired about why he ran away from home, and he responded, “because I feel like no one loves me”, and stated that his dad would get “really aggressive” and “profane” when he got angry and he did not feel safe at home, being afraid that his father would knock him out. When probed about his adopted father’s aggression, he recollected a time where Timothy slammed him against a wall by his neck and smacked him in the face with an open hand. When asked how often Timothy acted this way, the boy said that it “happened a lot in Arizona” where he had a similar set up in a room in a garage there that also locked from the outside. Discipline also included spanking with a belt. Because there was no bathroom connected to his bedroom, he stated that he was given a bucket to go to the bathroom in, which he was made to dump in the back yard and clean out. The boy told officers that he did not want to go back to his family and begged the officers to arrest him because he would rather go to prison than to be with them. After expressing suicidal thoughts, he was placed under Baker Act and brought to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Interview with Siblings

On the 1st of February 2022, the Special Victims Unit of the Florida Department of Children and Families removed the other 3 children and brought them to West Palm beach for forensic interviews. The older sibling confirmed the adopted son’s allegations against Tracy and Timothy, stating that his room was in the garage and that he gets locked in there when he is in trouble, noting that he is in trouble a lot.  She noted that the punishments that the adopted son would get were vastly different than the punishments that she and her other siblings would get. Whereas she may have her phone taken away, the adopted son had to write sentences and get locked in his room for extensive periods.

She also confirmed that the adopted son uses the bathroom in a bucket instead of the toilet like the rest of them and stated that he had used the bathroom on the floor in the past. When asked about physical abuse, she told officers she had seen him grabbed by the neck before, and that he had told her about being hit with a belt and a jump rope.  During the interview she broke down in tears saying that she wanted to do what was right for her brother and told them about how Timothy would monitor him on the camera above his bed. The 12-year-old sister also confirmed the situation. She stated that she missed him and wished he was not in trouble so much because she hasn’t been able to play with him at all recently. She also told officers that they went to Tampa for a softball tournament while the adopted son was missing.

 The Videos

The Ring camera above the adopted son’s bed was used regularly to monitor him. After obtaining a search warrant for the device, officers found thousands of videos showing him being locked into the room daily, hearing the door lock behind him. Each morning when Timothy would greet the boy, he would ask him “is it dirty?” while pointing at the bucket. One morning the boy indicated that it was dirty, only to be screamed at to clean it.

Several videos showed both Tracy and Timothy yelling at the 14-year-old. In one such video he is accused of “stealing” cookies and chocolate from the kitchen after being told he wasn’t allowed to have it. They took the covers from his mattress, threw his mattress against the wall, and grabbed him by the arm while yelling at him.   

The Arizona House

On February 2nd, 2022, officers from the Jupiter Police Department traveled to the Ferriter’s previous residence in Arizona. After not getting a response at the door, officers spoke to Cheri Lynch who said that the current owner told her about a “creepy” room in the garage that could only be locked from the outside. She gave officers the current owner’s phone number who stated that they removed it and felt that it was made specifically to keep someone inside of it.

Florida couple who forced adopted son, 14, to live in 8ft by 8ft locked box  charged with child abuse | Daily Mail Online

Relators had described it to the current owner as a “bonus room” and showed him the room with a small child sized bed in it with a comforter. The current owner managed to provide photographs from the house’s inspection that showed a similar room to the one the boy now had in Florida. It is not clear if the room was already in the house when the Ferriters bought it in 2014, or if they constructed it for this purpose like they did in their house in Florida.

Second Interview with Son

On February 4th, 2022, the boy was released from the hospital and underwent a forensic interview. During this interview he reiterated the same things he did in the first interview. This included that his longest stay locked into his room was 18 hours, that he does not have a bathroom, that he uses an orange Home Depot bucket to go to the bathroom, and that he is spanked with leather belts and jump ropes. He stated that these spankings are preformed with him naked leaned over his bed, and that he had fallen off his bed in pain in the past during these punishments.

Current Case Happenings

Based on the above factors, the probable cause affidavit states that “there is probable cause to believe that the defendants willfully tortured, maliciously punished, and willfully and unlawfully caged xxxx, a child, contrary to F.S.S. 872.03(1)(a) and (2)(a)” as well as falsely imprisoned the boy. Both Tracy and Timothy have been charged with aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment, a first degree and third-degree felony. Timothy’s bond was set at $25,000 for each charge, and bond conditions included a no contact order regarding any minors. Tracy’s bond was set at the same amount, and bond conditions included referring to all orders from the Department of Children and Families regarding visitation and contact with minor children.

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