Watertown Volunteer Firefighter, Wife Accused of Locking Child in Bathroom for Months: Police

A Watertown, Connecticut, volunteer firefighter and his wife are accused of punishing their five children by making them stand locked in the bathroom for long periods of time, police said.

George Barnes, 45, and Nancie Barnes, 47, were arrested Thursday. They are charged with cruelty to persons, unlawful restraint, and risk of injury to a minor. The couple adopted four of the children and are guardians of a fifth child. 

George Barnes is a Watertown volunteer firefighter, according to Watertown Fire Chief Larry Black.

One of the couple's adopted children was locked in the bathroom from September to mid-December when the Department of Children and Families came to the house, according to police. The DCF removed the children from the house temporarily.

Baby monitors were used to see if the child was standing when he or she was "supposed to be," police said. Meals were brought to the child during the three months. 

All five children, ranging in age from 9 to 18, told police they had been punished various times and would need to stand in the bathroom and read for extended periods of time, Watertown police said. 

Police said the children were allowed out to go to sleep or to school while confined to the bathroom.

The owner of a day care where two of the children were allegedly enrolled told NBC Connecticut that four years ago, Nancie Barnes requested no snacks be provided to the kids as "punishment."

"It was concerning to us that mom actually wanted us to not provide snacks for her children as a punishment for misbehaving at home," Rhonda Lagasse, owner of Watertown Little People, told NBC Connecticut.

"In a proper learning center, you do not demean or embarrass children or withhold anything from your program from a child because of misbehavior," Lagasse said.

Lagasse said she contacted the DCF because she felt withholding food was not a proper punishment for children. She said an investigation was done on the family and the children were removed from the daycare immediately.

"I did not want them leaving the program because we wanted to be able to keep an eye on it," Lagasse said.

NBC Connecticut reached out to DCF and the agency released the following statement:

"The parents who were arrested today were licensed by the Department and accordingly received criminal and child welfare background checks prior to obtaining their license and caring for the children.  We have high expectations for the families who foster and adopt children from state care, and those expectations are met in in all but the rarest of instances. If the allegations are true, the treatment of the children is completely unacceptable and a violation of the trust we place in foster and adoptive families."

An unidentified woman who knows the family said the children would be punished throughout the home: "One in the bedroom, one in the bathroom upstairs, one in the bathroom downstairs, one in the hallway."

The woman also said baby monitors were in every room of the house to "keep an eye on the kids."

The Barneses appeared in court on Jan. 29, where protective orders were issued. Each was released on a $35,000 bond and they are due back in court on Feb. 24.

They had no comment on Friday afternoon. A public defender is representing them.

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