St. Francois County Sheriff Daniel Bullock said that the children were likely locked inside the boxes “for weeks.”
Foxnews.com reports: He said the kids, whose ages range from 6-12, had no access to water, restrooms or windows, and the home reeked of urine.
“I’ve seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing this deplorable,” the sheriff added.
He said the four children, three girls and a boy, had been adopted by Cheatham and her estranged husband, but she was living with another man — Head — in the home. Two of the four children are related to each other but none are related to the adults, the sheriff added.
The charges could put the suspects behind bars for decades, prosecuting attorney Jerrod Mahurin said.
Law enforcement responded earlier Tuesday after someone called Missouri’s Child Abuse Hotline to report the home in Farmington, Fox 2 reported.
When investigators tried to enter the home, Head reportedly would not let them in at first. Ultimately they said they saw Cheatham unscrewing the plywood holding the boxes shut.
The four children have been placed in the care of Missouri’s Children’s Division.
Farmington is about an hour’s drive south of St. Louis.