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Wyoming judge rules evidence in caged-child case is sufficient to go to trial

Caged Child-1.jpg

This image shows the property outside Laramie, Wyo., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, where a 7-year-old child was allegedly kept in an outdoor cage behind the residence. A man and a woman face felony charges on allegations that they kept the child in an outdoor cage on and off for three weeks, forcing the child to sleep in the enclosure even during rainstorms. (AP Photo/Laramie Boomerang, Jeremy Martin) (The Associated Press)

Prosecutors have enough evidence to take a Wyoming man to trial on allegations of keeping a 7-year-old boy locked in an outdoor cage, a judge ruled.

The 38-year-old man's case was transferred to district court Thursday after a preliminary hearing on charges of aggravated child abuse and felonious restraint, the Laramie Boomerang reported (http://tinyurl.com/qeojr9j).

Deputies said the child reported living in the 6-by-6-foot enclosure outside a home west of Laramie for three weeks, off and on. He said meals were brought to him in the cage and that he slept there overnight even when it rained.

The man's attorney, Tom Fleener, argued prosecutors could not support the aggravated child abuse charge because there was no evidence of serious injuries.

"There is no bodily injury that this court has probable cause on, and there is certainly no probable cause for substantial risk of death," Fleener said.

Prosecutor Josh Merseal argued the boy was malnourished, and a deputy testified he saw him pull a bag of potato chips from the trash and eat them.

Merseal said boy's life was put at risk because he was left outside, exposed to the elements, in an area where mountain lions, coyotes and other predators roam. Inside the cage, deputies discovered a cot, clothing, books, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a five-gallon bucket, according to court documents.

"It's just ludicrous," Merseal said of the defense argument. "That is not how we raise our children."

The boy's mother faces the same charges. She waived her preliminary hearing and is awaiting arraignment in district court.

Authorities said the man was the boyfriend of the boy's mother.

Neither has entered a plea. If convicted on all charges, each faces up to 20 years in prison. They are being held in lieu of $100,000 bond each.

The Associated Press typically does not identify abuse victims and is withholding the suspects' names to avoid identifying the child.

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