Child-chaining parents plead guilty

Published 11:23 am Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Dexter couple charged with denying food and bathroom access to their two sons and chaining one of them to his bed pleaded guilty to false imprisonment in Mower County Court this morning.

Brian Dale Miller, 33, and Charity Lynn Miller, 26, both pleaded guilty to one count of gross misdemeanor false imprisonment. They also entered Alford pleas to one count of malicious punishment; an Alford plea is like a guilty plea, but rather than admitting guilt, it admits the defendants would likely be found guilty by a jury.

Five other charges — including malicious punishment, false imprisonment, endangerment and two counts of neglect — were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Charity Miller

Email newsletter signup

According to a court complaint, the Millers deprived their sons — ages 5 and 8 — of basic needs like food and access to the bathroom. They also chained the 5-year-old to his bed every night. The younger boy uses a crib as a bed.

He weighs less than 30 pounds, according to court documents. Deputies noticed bruising, swelling and rust marks on the boy’s ankle, which the boy said is from his chain being too tight.

When questioned in court, the Millers explained the process of chaining up the 5-year-old. Brian said he or Charity would roll down the boy’s sock as a cushion and put the chain around the sock and pant leg, looping the chain around his leg once and locking it to itself with a padlock. Charity said there was usually room for one or two fingers between the boy’s leg and the chain.

Brian Miller

“We were to a point where gates and locks didn’t work with him,” Brian said in court. He said the boy was getting into knives and other things that “could harm him.”

When the Millers were initially arrested, the 8-year-old told police he has gotten into trouble at school for taking food from other kids because he’s hungry most of the time, according to court documents. He said his parents spank him on his bare bottom with a fly swatter, and he is only allowed out of his bedroom for school and dinner.

In court Thursday, the Millers denied ever spanking their son with a fly swatter.

“That’s the claim,” Brian said in court. “That never happened.”

When officers searched the Millers’ home, they found a heavy metal chain attached to a crib with no mattress, court documents said. Officers also found several bags of trash and empty beer cans.

Charity, who works as a nurse at Staffing Solutions, told officers the 5-year-old is not allowed to use the crib’s mattress because he tears the plastic liner and mattress covering. She said the chain on the crib is there to keep him from “getting into things.” According to the court complaint, she told officers she knows it is unacceptable to chain a child to a bed.

However, Charity said in court Thursday that the mattress had been taken off the crib the day officers searched the home because her son had wet his bed and the sheets needed changing.

When officers interviewed Charity, she said, “Honestly it was not my idea, it was my husband’s idea, and I honestly don’t agree with it.”

When Brian entered his plea, he said the chaining was both his and Charity’s idea.

Law enforcement was notified of the alleged abuse when one of the boys talked to a staff member at Southland Elementary School.

The Millers are scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on June 22. The maximum penalty for each of the two charges is one year in jail with a fine. Judge Rysavy said the sentences will be served consecutively if they are convicted on both counts.