ELDORA, Iowa -- A 9-year-old boy clutched a stuffed animal as he told a judge that his father's girlfriend often withheld food and helped lock him under a staircase in the basement at their Iowa home.
"I couldn't get out" of the basement enclosure, the boy testified Wednesday in an Eldora courtroom at the bench trial of 40-year-old Traci Tyler.
Tyler and the boy's father, Alex Shadlow, are being tried separately on kidnapping charges, accused of locking the then-8-year-old in the basement of their Ackley home for at least nine hours a day in the summer of 2017.
The boy said the basement was dark and "supercold," and that he was scared because he had been told a dog had died or been buried in the basement where he had to sleep without bedding, The Des Moines Register reported . He also said Tyler hit him with the wire handle of a flyswatter and made him carry a backpack filled with rocks throughout the house.
He acknowledged getting into trouble for climbing onto kitchen counters while trying to find something to eat.
One of Tyler's attorneys, Ted Fisher, questioned the boy about his statements to police, in which he said he had urinated in the home. The boy placed his face in his hands and wiped away tears.
"That's the only naughty thing you did at the house?" Fisher asked when the boy said he climbed on the counters. The boy said he also had "accidents" in the home.
Fisher said the boy had told a doctor that he refused to eat at home because he was fed liver and spinach. Fisher also told the judge that the boy had said he hit himself and pulled out his hair because he didn't want to stay and obey the house rules, which barred lying and stealing.
Police said Tyler acknowledged the boy was locked in the basement because of his "bad behavior and food stealing."
The trial was canceled Thursday because of the frigid winter weather.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com