Oklahoma Man Accused of Locking Toddler in Cage04-Feb-2013
A preliminary hearing was held last week for a Tulsa man accused of locking his toddler in a cage. William Lewallen, 47, pleaded not guilty to one felony count of child neglect, according to court records.
Lewallen was arrested in November after police were called by a neighbor who allegedly heard a child crying outside the home. According to the neighbor, after hearing the child cry for more than twenty minutes, he went to investigate. He discovered a naked 4-year-old in the back yard, crying and trying to get in the home. Temperatures that day were in the low 40's. The neighbor knocked on Lewallen's door, but when no one responded, he took the child to his own home and called police.
When police arrived, they heard another child screaming and crying inside the home. When they, too, were unable to get a response, they kicked in the door and discovered an 18-month-old girl locked in a dog crate and covered in feces, and they found a naked 3-year-old asleep in the master bedroom beside Lewallen, who was allegedly passed out from drug and alcohol intoxication.
Police eventually awoke Lewallen, who slept through the screaming of his children, several knocks on the door, and even police forcibly entering his home. Lewallen said that he had taken a pain killer, a muscle relaxer, and anti-seizure medication with a beer before lying down "to rest." He said he was unaware that the eldest child had been locked outside of the home naked for more than 20 minutes, and that he did not know how the youngest child got locked in the cage. Charging documents allege that Lewallen was under the influence of Oxycontin, Flexeril, and Dilantin at the time of the incident. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) took custody of all three children. Lewallen was arrested on a child neglect complaint and booked into the Tulsa County Jail.
Prosectors also charged the children's mother, 27-year-old Erin Lewallen, with enabling child neglect. Though the mother was not home at the time of the alleged incident, authorities say that she knew or should have reasonably known that leaving the children with Lewallen would put them at risk of harm because of the father's history of substance abuse and criminal history. William Lewallen has been charged in eight felony cases in four counties over the past twenty-three years. He was currently on probation for a second degree burglary conviction in Osage County, and just three months prior to the child neglect incident, he was given a suspended sentence after pleading guilty in Tulsa County to a charge of possessing a precursor ingredient with an intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
In Oklahoma, the penalties for child neglect and for enabling child neglect are the same. The state holds parents and guardians accountable for the safety of children, and asserts that they must not place children in the care of individuals who are likely to put the children at risk of harm. If your family is affected by a charge of child abuse or neglect or enabling child abuse or neglect, finding an attorney who can protect your rights is critical to fighting the charge and working to restore your family. To find a child abuse lawyer in Oklahoma, visit OklahomaLegalGroup.com/child-abuse.
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