Tortured and starved! Couple arrested for locking up 8-year-old boy under their basement staircase for 9 hours a day

Tortured and starved! Couple arrested for locking up 8-year-old boy under their basement staircase for 9 hours a day
(Source:Police Department)

Authorities have said that a couple from Iowa tortured an 8-year-old boy by abusing him physically and locking him up under a basement staircase for many hours at a time without any light, food, or bedding. On July 18, Alex Craig Shadlow, 30, and Traci Lynn Tyler, 39, were charged with first-degree kidnapping.

According to reports, the victim was "intentionally subjected to physical and mental torture." In an interview that took place on July 18, Ackley Police Chief Brian Shimon said that the case was one "that just makes you sick," and that the police saved the boy - Shadlow's biological son - by taking him away from the home. According to criminal complaints, the couple had kept the 8-year-old confined in a 6-foot-by-6-foot area under the basement stairs for close to nine hours in a day.

The Des Moines Register reported that the basement enclosure did not have any light and was a bare cement floor. A makeshift door was installed, which remained locked from the outside. The child was only let out of the enclosure when he had to go to school - just across the street. The victim was the only child in the home. Shimon said that boy was "locked in a dungeon" in the darkness. 


Describing the basement staircase, Hardin County Attorney Darrell Meyer said that the enclosure was an underground cell which had no way out: "It was a coffin." He also added that the couple had plenty of room to keep the child upstairs if they had chosen. He added that the details of the boy's torture could make anyone furious, "There's no justification for that. It's just unfathomable that a parent could treat a child this way." 

According to the charging documents, the boy was not allowed to go outside to use the restroom and was handed a tin coffee can to use as a toilet, in case, he needed to relieve himself. As reported, the boy urinated on the same floor, at times, and was made to sleep without a pillow, blanket, mattress, or any other form of bedding.The officials also revealed that apart from the physical torture, the couple mentally tortured the boy by telling him that a dead dog was buried in the same spot.

In the documents submitted with the court, the authorities have described how the couple never fed the child and also how they always kept the kitchen door locked to stop him from going inside. The court documents also described how Tyler, Shadlow's girlfriend, used to hit the boy with the handle of a flyswatter and how she coerced their dog to bite him. The victim, who is currently suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), now has permanent scarring on his back and limbs, from the physical assaults that were inflicted on him. 


The authorities also said that when the boy started the 2017-2018 school year in September, the teachers saw that his body weight was pretty low, his hair was falling out in patches, and that he repeatedly asked for food. Meyer also said that the child was undernourished. The teachers described him as being a quiet boy, a loner, a good student, and well-behaved. School personnel got increasingly worried when his hunger reached an almost insatiable amount.

The child finally told his teachers one fine day that he is being kept locked in the basement under the stairs after he goes back home from school every day and that he was not allowed to go out until the next morning. The school immediately reported the situation to the Iowa Department of Human Services, which then made a surprise visit to the home, and took photographs of the enclosure.

According to court documents, Tyler admitted that the space in the basement was where they locked the boy up each night "because of his bad behavior and food-stealing". When the couple was being interviewed, they thought that what they were doing to the child was justified. Meyer said that the 8-year-old was removed from the house and has been safe for several months now. Shimon said that everytime he sees the door that they kept the child locked behind, he wanted to throw up. Being a father-of-eight, he said that cases such as this one "hit close to home". He said: "I would never think of treating a child like that. It's just absolutely sickening."


Shadlow was detained and arrested at the place where he worked in Iowa Falls while Tyler was arrested from their house. This wasn't the first time that authorities visited the Shadlow's residence. In June 2017, as per a county sheriff's dispatch entry, police was called in to conduct a welfare check on the boy, who was reportedly seen carrying weights and making circles around the garage. The officer, who arrived at the house, said that he saw the boy carrying around small weights and crying as he went around the back of the garage. On seeing the officer, the child threw the weights "out of frustration," according to the dispatch entry.

When questioned the child reportedly told the officer that he had been carrying the weights around for a few hours and that he was hungry. The officer gave him two slices of pizza which he planned to eat later. Shadlow avoided arrest by saying that he made his son carry around the weights to "get him to stop lying, stealing and to stay off the glass stove that he was climbing on."


Court records show that the officer from the county attorney's made a judgment and didn't report the incident as abuse because he didn't see it as bad parenting. The officer mentioned in his statement that the boy was not physically injured and it looked like they (family) were "trying to do all that they can to get help for the situation." The officer recalled the child saying: "Oh no, I deserved it. It's OK, I'm punished."

Meyer's office is currently working with the Iowa Attorney General's Office to prosecute the boy's case. First-degree kidnapping is a class A felony that is punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole. The couple is being held at the Hardin County Jail at present on a $500,000 bond. A preliminary hearing has been set for July 30.


Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.

Share this article:

 Iowa couple tortured starved and locked 8 year old boy in their home