IN JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA
POLICE revealed yesterday that a nine-year-old boy freed from his home in Florida earlier this week had spent most of the past three years locked in his bedroom, watched by his father on surveillance cameras that tracked his every move.
His father, Randall Warren Piercy, 41, claimed the strict living conditions were in his son's best interest, said police, who charged the man with malicious punishment and child abuse.
"[The boy] was just wide-eyed, and so excited we were there," said Jacksonville Sheriff's Lt Annie Smith. "We told him to put his shoes and socks on to go outside. He said, 'Go outside?' Allowed out, the child ran around in his front yard, pinching himself on the arm."
When asked why he was pinching himself he told her: "Just to make sure this is real. Days like this only come along once in a lifetime."
The home had cameras in almost every room, with the father monitoring the boy on television and computer screens, Sheriff's Lt Smith said.
It appeared the boy had received no medical attention for several years, she added, and might have been cut off from human contact, except for that with his family.
Investigators are trying to determine why the boy was kept in such conditions for so long, never learning to read and, according to relatives, usually allowed to use the lavatory only once a day.
Social workers took the boy from the home, and a judge ordered his parents to have no contact with him.
Mr Piercy said he had been wrongly accused and was the victim of a vendetta by his in-laws.
The child's mother, Michelle Piercy, who was not immediately charged, told a local news station that her son was not abused and that the cameras allowed her and her husband to make sure he did not hurt himself.
She said the boy was hyperactive and was locked in his room at night to prevent him from going outside and getting hurt. "We are very protective," she said.
Mr and Mrs Piercy run an internet-based company from their home, selling T-shirts.
Police said they were still investigating Mrs Piercy's role.
According to police, investigators were told that Mrs Piercy allowed her husband to make all decisions regarding the boy.
The police report said Mr Piercy let her see the child only at certain times and usually for just an hour a day.
The arrest came after an investigator posing as a property investor went to the home this month with the boy's maternal grandfather, an estate agent.
The undercover officer found the boy in a locked room, sitting on a bed in his underwear. The room smelled faintly of urine and had a camera mounted on a wall, aimed at the child's bed, authorities said. Update, mother jailed.