Parents forced daughter to live in woods after eating Pop-Tart, police say

Jul 7, 2015 5:18 PM by NBC News, Photos: Sumter County Sheriff's Office

Two South Carolina parents were arrested this week after forcing their 14-year-old daughter to live in a tent in the woods because she ate a Pop-Tart without permission, authorities said.

The Sumter County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday James Driggers, 33, and his wife Crystal Driggers, 36, had been denying their child entrance to their home for two days - and she was expected to remain away from the home for a week. The child was ordered by her parents to set up a tent - in a wooded area known to have wild hogs - and was provided with only a roll of toilet paper, a flashlight, a whistle, and a watch, police said.

The teen girl was allegedly told by her parents to meet "someone" at a fence on the family's property at specific times during the day if she wanted to receive any food: Her brother delivered her an open can of Spaghetti-Os with a plastic spoon one afternoon, authorities said. The child was also left to fend for herself during severe thunderstorms that hit the town Thursday night, police said.

The girl's grandmother called police after hearing she was outside Thursday. The grandmother went in the rain to take the child to her own home right around the corner, authorities said. After the child was returned home later Thursday night and police talked with the parents, the child was sent back outside.

In a follow-up Friday afternoon, police discovered the girl had been sent back to the tent, more than a quarter-mile from the home. Investigators also learned that during the previous month, the child had been sent from the home every day at 8 a.m. and prohibited to return until 6 p.m.

"She couldn't return for any reason," Police spokesman Braden Bunch said. "Not to get a drink, not to use the bathroom, nothing." Bunch also said Sumter County had been experiencing heat issues during the month with temperatures regularly surpassing 100 degrees.

The Driggers have five other children, four of which were in the home at the time. Those siblings have been placed in the custody of their grandparents while the 14-year-old girl is with the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

"We feel very confident that the parents were overstepping their bounds," Bunch said. "From trying to correct a child's behavior to true criminal punishment."

Both parents have been charged with a single count of unlawful neglect of a child and more charges are possible as the investigation continues, police said.


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