A suburban Pittsburgh couple was arrested on Thursday following an investigation into abuse, sparked by a teacher reported seeing two children handcuffed in the back of a van, say police.
Richard Hayes, 37 of Mt. Oliver, and his fiancee, 26 of Rankin were investigated by Allegheny County police after White Oak police received the initial call from Francis McClure Elementary School on Wednesday.
Hayes' 11-year-old son was refusing to get into his dad’s van after he was dismissed from school, saying he "didn’t want to be handcuffed again," according to police. That's when school officials looked inside the van and found a woman in the passenger seat and two children, ages 7 and 10, handcuffed in the backseat.
The police obtained a warrant and found tiny rooms three children told them were where they stayed, as well as a place they called “the hole,”--an old coal cellar with a concrete floor and no lights-- and “the cell,"--a basement room with a bucket and a toilet seat--say police.
All three children were forensically interviewed, stating they were physically abused and repeatedly locked in those rooms without light, blankets or running water for days, according to police. The date the abuse started was not released publicly.
“This is perhaps one of the most serious incidents of child abuse I’ve seen in my career,” said Allegheny County Police Inspector Michael Peairs said in a press conference.
One of the more gruesome incidences reported includes Bell holding the 7-year-old’s legs as Hayes submerged his head in water.
“If it weren’t for the 11-year-old refusing to enter the vehicle and the school officials and police officers — if they hadn’t noticed what was going on and the red flags and indicators, the abuse could have continued,” said Peairs.
The school district released a complete statement on the abuse to KDKA condemning the abuse and thanking the teacher that reported handcuffed children.
Hayes and Bell have been charged with multiple counts of the following:
- F1 Aggravated Assault
- F2 Unlawful Restraint of Minor/Not Parent - Risk of Bodily Injury
- F2 False Imprisonment of Minor/Not Parent
- F2 Endangering Welfare of Children - Parent/Guardian/Other Commits Offense
- M1 Simple Assault
Hayes has an additional charge for carrying a loaded handgun on to school property.
The children were taken into child services custody and their current status is unknown as of Friday afternoon.
Hayes has been denied bail and will reside in the county prison until his preliminary hearing.
Bell has been released on $50,000 in bail.
Hayes' hearing is on May 19 and Bell's is on June 30, both at 1 p.m. with Magisterial District Judge Richard G. King.
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