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Jefferson City couple accused of keeping child in closet

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Cole County Jail


Cole County prosecutors charged a couple with a felony count each linked to a Cole County Sheriff's Department investigation into child abuse.

Joseph Ciavarella, 52, and Loretta Wilhelm, 34, of Jefferson City were charged Saturday after court documents say deputies started their investigation on Jan. 1, 2018. Ciavarella faces a charge for endangering the welfare of a child. Wilhelm faces a charge of abuse or neglect of a child.

Joseph Ciavarella and Loretta Wilhelm each face a felony charge in Cole County linked to alleged child abuse.

Court documents list Ciavarella as the father of the child. The same documents say Wilhelm was engaged to Ciavarella. The pair lived in the same house with the child, three of Wilhelm's children and one they had together deputies said.

Ciavarella and Wilhelm are accused of keeping a child in a locked closet. Probable cause statements show the child told investigators the pair sealed the child in the room for sneaking out of his room to get food. Documents say the child was at least once locked in the room for about two days without food, or water.

Investigators say Wilhelm choked the child. In an interview with deputies, the child said Wilhelm would choke him for going through her things.

Missouri Division of Family Services agents removed five children from the home. The department's investigation revolved around the child kept in the closet.

An alleged witness told investigators Wilhelm hit the child. The same witness said Wilhelm tried to repair parts of the house to get her children back, but that the state could keep the child at the center of the investigation.

Article Topic Follows: Jefferson City
child neglect
cole county sheriff

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Matt Ragsdale

Matt Ragsdale is a broadcast and digital producer at ABC 17 News.


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