Police say couple put boy in cage, made him wear shock collar to punish him

Associated Press Writer

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - When Jessica Botzko's son was a baby, authorities temporarily removed him from her care when she was charged with child endangering. Nearly a decade later, the boy took matters into his own hands, authorities said.

Botzko is again accused of child endangerment after her 10-year-old son ran away from home with his younger brother and told investigators he was tired of being put in a dog cage, police said. The older boy also had been forced to wear a remote-controlled shock collar, authorities said.

Botzko, 28, and John Westover, 37, appeared briefly in court Thursday on charges of child endangerment and making or selling drugs in front of the children.

At least once the 10-year-old boy was made to wear the collar - designed as a training device for animals - while inside the cage and was repeatedly shocked, court documents said. The cage, less than 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide, had a chain across the top with two locks on each end, said police Capt. Ray Carroll.

"He had to tuck his knees into his chest and he fell asleep in there on a couple occasions," Carroll said. "It wasn't continuous. It was probably on and off for punishment."

The older boy and his 5-year-old brother ran away from home Tuesday night when their father was away and their mother was dancing at a strip club, police said. They were found a few blocks away on a neighbor's porch.

Westover has an extensive record and was wanted on a child endangering charge in suburban Toledo, authorities said. The couple had a daughter who died of sudden infant death syndrome a few years ago, Carroll said. Police plan to take another look at her death.

Court hearings for both Botzko and Westover were continued because neither had a lawyer and they remained in jail. A message seeking comment left for them at the jail was not immediately returned.

Both told police they put the boy in the cage to punish him, Carroll said. The boy told officers that he also was caged when his father was using or making drugs, Carroll said.

Authorities said the boy weighed only 61 pounds, appeared thin for his age and told officers he had not eaten in two days.

It was not clear whether the younger boy had been put in the cage, Carroll said. Police plan to interview the boys again in the next few days. They were placed in the custody of Children Services.

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