Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh couple was charged with child abuse Friday after investigators said they repeatedly locked their 6-year-old in the basement of their home and refused to give the child food.
Cassandra Carmen Smith, 25, and Serge Daniel Germain Jr., 47, both of 4824 Six Forks Road, are each charged with one count of misdemeanor child abuse. Investigators said Smith, the child's mother, and Germain, the child's stepfather, began locking the child in the basement of their home in October 2010.
Smith told WRAL News Saturday that the crime never happened. According to Germain, the couple's children go into the basement to get on their bikes and play in the back yard of the home.
"It's impossible to lock the door from the inside," Germain said.
Smith said she believes her son "needs some help" and said he's never gone without a meal.
"We are finding out that (our son) has some mental issues," Smith said of her 6-year-old son. "This is not the first time he has lied."
According to an April 2013 assessment by the Department of Social Services, a case worker found no reason to believe that the three children in Smith and Germain's care were in any harm.
"I told them, 'Yes, I have yelled at them on occasion,'" Germain said. "But that's because they don't listen any other way. You got to startle them to stop them."
Following the couple's arrest Friday, they were released from custody on separate $5,000 bonds. Smith said she wanted to get back to her children as quickly as possible.
"I wanted to know if they were going to take my kids. That was my first concern," she said. "My second concern was are we going to be able to get out and take care of them. For us, it's all about the kids."
Germain said the couple is being "persecuted" by the Department of Social Services.
"It's a nightmare," he said. "They want to take my kids. These kids are my life. I love my children."
Smith was arrested in Chatham County in 2009 and charged with misdemeanor child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Those charges were later dismissed.
"I was asleep and I had a friend and she went out to go to the bank," Smith said. "She left the door unlocked and my son walked out and he got picked up by someone."
German was arrested in Florida in 2004 for assault on a police officer and resisting arrest and has also been arrested on drug charges.