Midlothian father admits he locked daughters in cage in truck, cops say
Midlothian father admits he locked daughters in cage in truck, cops say Man arrested at gas station, charged with child endangerment
By Ofelia Casillas, Jeremy Gorner and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons | Chicago Tribune reporters
- 10:06 PM CDT, July 3, 2008
Posen Deputy Chief Vickie Paggi explains the conditions inside a Chevrolet truck where two girls were found in a cage on Monday. Their father, Ricardo Gonzalez, was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment. (Tribune photo by Antonio Perez / July 3, 2008)
Whenever Ricardo Gonzalez went to a job site in his pickup truck, he never let his small children out of his sight. So protective was the 35-year-old south suburban man, he kept his daughters in a makeshift cage inside the truck, officials say.
One of the girls told an investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that her father locks them up because "he does a very dangerous job," according to state records reviewed by the Tribune. "My dad tightens both of us with his belt by my leg and my sister was [on] the other side of the cage tight with another belt."
Gonzalez of Midlothian was arrested Monday after a woman heard one of his children crying from the locked cage at a gas station in Posen, authorities said.
He was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment. A Cook County state's attorney's office spokesman said Thursday that prosecutors had not yet determined whether the offense will be upgraded to a felony. He is scheduled to appear July 31 in the Markham Courthouse.
The father has admitted locking up both his daughters in the cage while he worked collecting trash and scrap metal because he had no one to baby-sit for the children, ages 2 and 5, officials said. But police said he also admitted he locked them up so they wouldn't run away.
Gonzalez's pickup truck was spotted about 4:30 p.m. Monday at a gas station in the 3000 block of West 147th Street in Posen when a woman heard what she thought was a crying child. Police said Gonzalez was in the driver's seat with one of his daughters in his lap while the other was locked up in the cage crying.
The children were turned over to DCFS, which was investigating an allegation of abuse of the two children by their father, said agency spokesman Kendall Marlowe, adding that the girls have been placed into foster care.
The agency had contact with the family in 2006 when it investigated the children's mother for neglect, Marlowe said. According to records, the mother was reported to have left one of the daughters home alone outside their residence.
That allegation was "substantiated," Marlowe said, but DCFS provided the family with "supportive services" instead of placing the children in foster care.
In the latest case, the children's mother requested both children be returned to her care, according to state records. When asked by a child-welfare investigator how many times she saw the cage, the mother said twice, the records say.
Gonzalez and other family members could not be reached