ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY, Mo. – A special prosecutor will handle a child abuse case against a former employee of the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Prosecutors allege Laura Cheatham and Daryl Head kept four children locked inside small, windowless boxes in Head’s Farmington home.

Cheatham and Head were arrested in August 2018 after an abuse report was filed with the Missouri Children’s Division Investigators. Deputies with the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department went to a home in the 100 block of Meadowbrook Drive on Aug. 7.

Authorities claim Head denied deputies entry into the home. Deputies eventually forced their way inside and discovered Cheatham letting the children out from the dimly-lit boxes. The children, three girls and one boy, were between the ages of 5 and 12.

Both Head and Cheatham were arrested that day and the children placed into protective custody with the Children’s Division.

The St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Cheatham and Head with four counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree kidnapping each.

Investigators discovered Cheatham had been working at the Farmington Correctional Center back in January 2018, and that she ordered child-sized inmate uniforms from the prison’s clothing supplier. She allegedly told the inmate in charge of the clothing supplier that the uniforms “were for her kids.”

Authorities took custody of the child-sized uniforms from the correctional facility, as well as cardboard patterns labeled “kids pants” and “kids shirt,” and the work order documentation.

Last month, St. Francois prosecutors requested that neighboring Madison County authorities assume prosecutorial duties on the case. This week, the Madison County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed paperwork to take over the case.

Trial dates for both Cheatham and Head were set for May 19 in Fredericktown.