Mother accused of caging autistic kids takes the stand

Mother accused of caging autistic kids takes the stand »Play Video
Alayna Higdon in court on Tuesday morning. (KATU photo)

VANCOUVER, Wash. – A mother accused of keeping her two young autistic sons in a makeshift cage in her Vancouver home took the witness stand during her trial on Tuesday morning.

Alayna Higdon testified in front of the judge for about ten minutes to help determine whether statements she made to police during the beginning of the investigation were admissible in court.

The jury was not in the room for this testimony.

The Vancouver Police officer who arrested Higdon testified earlier in the morning that, among other statements, Higdon told her “this isn’t fair.”

However, Clark County Superior Judge Robert Lewis said that police officers did not read Higdon her Miranda rights until later, as opposed to right away at the police station when she first met with them.

Higdon was eventually read her rights while in a police car after being taken from the precinct.

Lewis ruled that any statements Higdon made before being read her rights were not admissible in court.

That effectively eliminates one of the arguments for “aggravating circumstances” in the case, which could affect Higdon’s punishment if she is convicted.

Higdon explained how she had not been read her rights when she was first questioned by police. She said from the minute she sat down with investigators she felt like she wasn't free to leave.

"I felt like if I had gotten up I'd have to move, you know, push through them to get out and they were officers standing their blocking my way," she testified.

Higdon and her husband, John Eckhart, face charges of aggravated imprisonment. With that charge, they could face as much as five years in prison if convicted.

The lessor charge of imprisonment could lead to just a few months behind bars if convicted.

Higdon's mother also took the stand as a prosecution witness on Tuesday.

She wept as she testified that the boys were never let out from behind the wire doors while she was there.

"I don't remember them being out," she said.

Eckhart and Higdon were arrested more than a year ago after a maintenance worker at their Vancouver apartment saw their 5- and 7-year-old boys being kept in their room behind a locked door made from metal shelving.

While the defense contends the couple had to confine the boys because of their severe autism, prosecutors say the couple simply didn't care how they treated their sons and were lazy and careless.