By LAUREN SILVER and GRACE WONG
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Court TV) — A man accused of locking his adopted teenage son in a box in the family garage for hours at a time has been convicted on all counts against him.
Ferriter was indicted, along with his wife, Tracy Ferriter, in March 2022 on charges of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment.
Though the couple was initially charged together, their cases were severed at Timothy’s request, citing comments his wife made to police when he was not present.
Police in Jupiter, Florida, began investigating the couple after their son was reported missing on Jan. 28, 2022. At the time, Tracy told police that the child, who was missing, had “run away from home on several occasions before” and told officers that her adopted son had several behavioral disorders.
Before the child’s disappearance, officers were contacted by a contractor, identified in court documents as “Jack,” who wanted to report that the couple had asked him to build an office in their garage. While he complied with their request, he noted that what they asked for was odd.
“The room was built as an 8-foot-by-8-foot space in the garage with its own ceiling and door. Jack further advised the door had a deadbolt lock and a knob only on the outside, no knob inside, so if someone were inside the office they would not be able to exit unless someone opened the door for them on the outside. Jack stated he was also instructed to build this space with electricity and install a window air conditioning unit as well as a camera in the ceiling.”
On Jan. 30, 2022, the child was still missing when police returned to the house to follow up. When police were given access to the house to look around, they noted toys in what was described as the children’s bedroom had toys that were for younger ages. When asked about the child in question, Tracy allegedly told police “there was a ‘structure’ the child had built” in the garage.
The officer described the room as having a small box spring and mattress with a sheet and pillow, a desk with a folding chair and a camera. “It should be noted the room was a plain white structure with no paint or color on the walls and appeared to be bare drywall. The floor was a bare garage floor with part of an indoor-outdoor rug covering it.”
On Jan. 31, 2022, the child’s school resource officer called Jupiter police officers after seeing the child on a security camera. When police spoke to the child he said described his room as “8×8” and said that his father gets aggressive and once slammed him against a wall by his neck and struck him in the face with an open hand. When officers asked further about the room in the garage, the child said that he was locked in the room for up to 16-18 hours, and that he was given a bucket to use as a bathroom, which he then had to dump in the backyard and clean. Officers said the child said he ate alone in his room, and was often given leftovers after the rest of the family ate. When asked why he left, the child said, “Because I feel like no one loves me.”
Officers said the child’s story was corroborated by thousands of videos found after serving a search warrant for the Ring device. In a motion filed on March 17, 2022, Ferriter accused police of illegally accessing data from his Google account via his underage children.
Among the evidence introduced at trial was evidence of Ferriter’s prior behavior in Arizona before the family moved to Florida. Prosecutors said that in the two to three years before the family moved, the child was moved out of the main house “into a small, windowless, room containing a bed separate from the rest of the family.”
Prosecutors offered Timothy a plea agreement that would have sent him to jail for 24 months, but he rejected it in the days leading up to the trial. He faces up to 40 years in prison at his sentencing on Nov. 16.
DAILY TRIAL UPDATES
DAY 7 – 10/12/23
- During deliberations, the jury requested to see some evidence. A file sent back to the jury contained additional video not admitted as evidence for the jury to consider.
- The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts.
DAY 6 – 10/11/23
- Timothy Ferriter opted not to testify in his own defense and instead let Ring videos from “the box” help make his case for locking up a son whose chronic behavioral issues threatened himself and their family.
- Defense attorney Prya Murad played for jurors the video in which the defendant was seen threatening to put an ankle bracelet on RF, to address the child’s habit of running away.
- “You can hear Tim Ferriter attempting to parent…it’s not perfect,” said Murad, who went on to say that it was Ferriter’s way of telling his then 14-year-old son that he had a duty to keep him safe. “No parent can allow their child to run in the street, no parent can allow their child to be lost and not go find them,” she said.
- The defense attorney conceded that Ferriter made bad parenting choices but argued that the family was at its wit’s end and had sought professional help to deal with RF’s behavioral issues to no avail.
- “Those six weeks were the pinnacle of frustration that tone is what you are hearing after years of continuous effort,” she argued.
Despite the Ferriters’ best efforts, RF’s misdeeds which included lying, stealing, and aggression toward his siblings and other children persisted. Murad explained that while some of the actions Tim took were extreme, they were in response to his son’s actions, whose misbehavior was escalating and becoming more alarming. RF admitted he brought a box cutter to school one day, the second incident involving a sharp blade that jurors heard about.
- Ferriter’s friend Sev De Borzatti said a handful of knives had gone missing while they were vacationing only to be recovered from RF’s backpack.
- Murad said the Ferriters monitored RF’s use of the Chromebook, because his online searches were about violence. Murad explained that when Tim reprimanded his son for turning on the air conditioner in the middle of the night, it was because RF had once started an electrical fire.
- “Tim Ferriter made bad choices and you don’t have to agree with them, but whether or not what he did was a crime under the law is a different question altogether, and it is one that the State has not proven and I’m asking that you find him not guilty,” Murad said in closing.
- Prosecutor Karen Black reminded jurors that RF was a child, 11 years old, and in elementary school when Tim started locking him up, a punishment that went on for years, which would only have exacerbated RF’s psychological issues.
- “What Tim Ferriter did was not reasonable,” she said, suggesting that RF’s infractions were minor and common among school-aged children and that Ferriter’s method of punishment was out of proportion to his misdeeds.
- Brianna Coakley reminded jurors of the extended hours that RF spent in the “box,” in what amounted to solitary confinement. A box built in the garage away from other members of his family. She noted that RF was locked in the room every day for 14 to 18 hours a day, forced to relieve himself in a bucket, and when he misbehaved his confinement would include several hours of sitting in the dark alone, which she said was nothing less than psychological torture. She went on to argue that Tim’s discipline of RF was driven by anger not concern, noting that none of the medical professionals they consulted recommended extended confinement as a treatment.
- To reinforce her argument Coakley replayed a profanity-laced scolding that Tim gave his son over his bad attitude. “The response is to not have a conversation with him, not try to do anything that would be useful, instead locks him in the dark in an empty cell, turns the lights off because he’s mad,” she said. “That’s malice toward this child.”
- Coakley went on to argue that the videos shown by the defense which conveyed RF’s time in and around the house when he was not locked up only supported the prosecution’s case.
- “The victim is able to conduct himself in a family environment. He plays nicely with his little brother P**, he is able to behave appropriately with his other siblings. You see him playing with the dog, we do not see violence or aggression,” Coakley argued. “The evidence is the contrary the person jeopardizing the safety of the family was Tim Ferriter.”
- Ferriter is charged with Aggravated Child Abuse, False Imprisonment and Neglect of a Child, he faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted of the top count. Ferriter turned down a plea offer of two years in prison followed by probation.
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Defense Closing Argument
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Prosecution Closing Arguments
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Tim Ferriter Opts Not to Testify
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: What the Jury Didn’t See
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Parental Affirmative Defense
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Analyzing Tim Ferriter’s Body Language
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Day 6
DAY 5 – 10/10/23
- Defense psychologist Shiela Rapa agreed with prosecutors that the Ferriters’ treatment of RF was harmful and would only have exacerbated his behavioral issues.
- Rapa testified that confinement would not have cured RF of symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder, and their treatment did not add up to solitary confinement
- The judge is planning to ask Tim Ferriter on Wednesday morning whether he would like to testify.
DAY 4 – 10/6/23
DAY 3 – 10/5/23
- A child psychologist who viewed dozens of videos captured by the Ring camera in RF’s custom built ‘box,’ or room, testified that such confinement amounted to psychological torture and could be more harmful than helpful in addressing his behavioral issues.
- Dr. Myers testified that confining a child to a darkened room for 14 to 18 hours a day, with little stimuli would not have been recommended treatment for any of the issues RF’s mental health professionals had diagnosed in 2015 and 2019, including Reactive Attachment Disorder, the result of being abandoned at an orphanage in Vietnam when he was seven-months old.
- According to Myers, the recommended treatment for children with RAD, would be an environment that was loving, supportive and nurturing, which appeared absent from the videos shown to the jury.
- On cross defense attorney Khurrum Wahid was repeatedly stymied by prosecution objections. He suggested that the Ferriters had sought help from several mental health professionals over the years for behavioral issues even before RF was living in a box in Arizona.
DAY 2 – 10/4/23
- Prosecution’s case continues with cross examination of FF.
- RF, the alleged victim, says being locked up was “dehumanizing”, but called what his parents did a “mistake” and said it was time to forgive and move on.
- RF admitted to hacking, stealing, bullying, and conniving his way into situations that disturbed and upset his parents.
- Ring video obtained by search warrant shows Tracy and Tim Ferriter yelling and tossing RF’s cell-like room accusing him of stealing chocolate (audio only).
- FF, RF’s sister, said at one point she feared her father would accidentally kill her brother.
- State is expected to rest midday Thursday.
- Defense has three civilian witnesses and one expert in their case.
- If the defendant elects to testify, the case will likely spill over to next Tuesday.
- Court is dark Monday.
- If the trial spills over to the following week, one of the jurors will be replaced by an alternate, as the juror has travel plans.
- WATCH: Ferriters’ Daughter Says Brother Was Punished for Stealing
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Alleged Victim Testifies Against Father
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Defendant’s Son on Cross-Examination
- WATCH: Boy in a Box on the Stand: What it Was Like to See Him Testify Live
- WATCH: Boy in a Box Trial: Day 2
DAY 1 – 10/3/23
- Defendant’s daughter testifies that her parents were more punitive toward her brother and kept him locked away in a room in the garage for most of the time when he was at home.
- Detective testifies that the bed that he first saw in the enclosure was moved to the baby’s room when he went back to the Ferriter house with a search warrant nearly two weeks later.
- Prosecution and defense give their opening statements.