LAWRENCE, Kan. >> A man and woman from suburban Chicago face felony child abuse and child endangerment charges after police said two of their five children were found blindfolded with their arms and legs bound in a Kansas Walmart parking lot.
The jailed couple from Northlake, Ill., appeared in court by video Thursday in Lawrence in eastern Kansas. Bonds for both were set at $50,000. They were appointed public defenders, and preliminary hearings were scheduled for June 21.
Their attorneys did not immediately return phone messages left for them Thursday evening, and a request for an interview with the couple at the jail was denied by the sheriff’s office.
All five children are now in protective custody, authorities said. The parents were told in court that they can’t have any contact with the children or each other.
Each is charged with two counts of child abuse and five counts of child endangerment. The 52-year-old father also is charged with one count of obstruction.
Assistant Douglas County district attorney Jim McCabria declined to discuss details of the case, including whether the parents have been charged with any crimes before.
Police responded to a 911 call from a concerned shopper Wednesday and spotted the 5-year-old boy sitting on the ground beside a large SUV with his hands tied behind his back, his legs bound and a blindfold covering his eyes. As an officer approached the car, he noticed a man standing near the vehicle.
“When (the man) saw the officer, he tried to get away from him,” Lawrence police spokesman Sgt. Trent McKinley said. The man ducked inside the vehicle and the officer, concerned that the man could be reaching for a weapon, used a stun gun and put him in handcuffs, McKinley said.
Prosecutors said a 7-year-old girl also was found outside the vehicle, blindfolded with her arms and legs bound. Police had reported that the girl was inside the vehicle, but prosecutors said after the court appearance that she was actually found outside of it.
Three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were inside the vehicle but were not restrained.
“This is an extremely unusual circumstance,” McKinley said, adding that he does not know why the two children were blindfolded and bound.
He said officers arrested the children’s 43-year-old mother after finding her inside the Walmart.
The couple and their children were forced to pull off Interstate 70 late Monday when their vehicle had transmission problems, McKinley said, citing interviews with the family. He said they were driving to visit relatives.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie said the company is helping police with the investigation, including providing video surveillance footage.
“We are working closely with the Lawrence police department and providing any information we have,” she said.
She would not elaborate on what the video revealed and referred all questions to the police.