Toddler found locked inside bug-filled cage, parents arrested, authorities say

The Hocking County Sheriff's Office arrested and charged 38-year-old Franklin “TJ” Varney...
The Hocking County Sheriff's Office arrested and charged 38-year-old Franklin “TJ” Varney (left) and 25-year-old Megan Smith (right).(Hocking County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 11:43 AM CDT
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HOCKING COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX/Gray News) – Detectives found a 3-year-old locked inside a cage at a home in Ohio and a 2-year-old with a meth pipe, according to the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office said Franklin “TJ” Varney, 38, and Megan Smith, 25, fled the home due to their involvement with a sexual assault investigation, abandoning the toddlers.

They were caught and arrested following a chase near the home on Monday. The sheriff’s office said Varney and Smith are both facing felony endangering children charges.

Law enforcement said the home was in deplorable condition when they served a search warrant.

The 3-year-old was left in a cage secured with Zipties that was filled with bugs, soiled bedding and a cup full of spoiled milk, the sheriff’s office explained.

Detectives said they saw a 2-year-old walking around the home with a meth pipe.

The sheriff’s office said the children were placed in emergency foster care.

The toddlers’ grandmother, Ella Webb, had custody and was arrested and charged with endangering children.

“I very, very strongly encourage Mr. Varney and Ms. Smith to immediately surrender themselves to law enforcement,” Chief Deputy Caleb J. Mortiz said in a statement. “If they choose to run from their responsibilities, as they did tonight, the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office will tirelessly leverage every local, state and federal resource available to bring these two to justice.”