Jury Acquits Vancouver Parents
It took a Clark County jury four hours to decide that a Vancouver couple's choice to keep two young autistic boys in a bedroom with a locked makeshift gate was for their own safety and was not unlawful imprisonment as prosecutors claimed.
31-year-old John Eckhart Jr. collapsed in his attorney's arms after the verdict was read. 27-year-old Alayna Higdon, his former live-in girlfriend, broke down and wept. The two are no longer a couple.
Prosecutors had claimed the locked gate was for the convenience of the adults. Defense attorneys claimed the restraint was to keep the severely autistic boys from hurting themselves.
One juror told The Columbian newspaper most of the jurors had decided to acquit as soon as they began deliberating, except for one juror who eventually agreed with the other eleven.
Still to be decided is whether the boys will be returned to Eckhart. The 7-year-old is in foster care and the 5-year-old is living with his biological mother in Tillamook. It will be up to a family law judge to decide what happens to the boys now.