CLOVERDALE, Ind. - A Putnam County man was so upset that his 10-year-old stepson had spilled sugar that he confined the boy to a room without food or water, police said.
Michael Shane Witt, 33, is charged with neglect of a dependent, battery causing injury and domestic battery in connection with the incident Saturday.
Witt's estranged wife, April Witt, 31, also faces charges of neglect, though she has not been arrested yet.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Michael Witt "did knowingly abandon or cruelly confine" the boy in an "act of cruel or unusual confinement that deprived (the boy) of necessary food, water and sanitary facilities."
Michael Witt called police early Saturday to report a disturbance at his home that he shares with his estranged wife and six children and stepchildren, asking police to remove them for "not respecting house rules," according to the affidavit.
While at the home, officers said they discovered a back bedroom that reeked of urine and feces.
The children told police that their parents would send them to the room as punishment, often for long periods of time, according to the affidavit.
Police said they learned Michael Witt's 8-year-old and 10-year-old stepsons were kept captive in that room and were forced to use the restroom on a stool with a hole cut out of it placed over a 5-gallon bucket.
"It literally looked like a jail cell," said Sgt. Charlie Hallam, of the Cloverdale Police Department. "Inside it was minimal accommodations. It's a small room. Not to mention its on top of a walk-down basement with flap doors. It's not safe. They would be in there for extended periods of time."
Authorities want to know exactly how long the children were kept locked up and why.
"The children are now going to be interviewed by our investigators," Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said. "They say it was a long time allegedly. We need to find out what that means. How long was it? I think it was a combination of things -- mental illness and punishment."
Michael Witt denied the allegations, saying his arrest was a conspiracy by the government.
A not guilty plea was entered on Michael Witt's behalf in court Wednesday.
The children were placed in the custody of their maternal grandmother, and neither Michael Witt nor April Witt is able to see them.