Florida Mother Who Locked Adopted Son In Small Box for Hours As Punishment Avoids Prison Time, Cries Dry Tears After Sentencing Hearing: ‘We Just Tried to Do the Best That We Could’

A Florida mother charged two years ago with allegedly keeping her adopted son locked in a makeshift box inside the family’s garage has avoided prison time after reaching a deal with prosecutors for probation in exchange for pleading guilty to charges of child abuse.

Tracy Ferriter pleaded guilty June 24 to one count each of aggravated child abuse, a first-degree felony, and false imprisonment and child neglect, both third-degree felonies.

Her conviction at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach marked the end to an appalling abuse case that gained worldwide attention in February 2022.

Florida Mother Who Locked Adopted Son In Small Box for Hours As Punishment
Tracy Ferriter is accused of locking her adopted child in a box as punishment. (Photo: YouTube screenshot/WPTV News)

That’s when police discovered an 8-foot-by-8-foot box-like structure in the garage of the Ferriter’s home, where the child was confined for extended periods each day.

Both Ferriter and her husband, Timothy, were taken into custody.

Despite last week’s lenient sentence, Circuit Judge Howard Coates didn’t let Ferriter off the hook completely as he handed down 10 years probation on the child abuse count and ordered the 48-year-old mother to serve concurrent five-year probation terms for the other two charges. 

He also mandated that Ferriter pay a $2,000 fine, undergo a mental health evaluation, complete 300 hours of community service, and fulfill other conditions, including house arrest for one year, anger management and parenting classes, and the immediate collection of a DNA sample.

At the sentencing hearing, which was broadcast live on Court TV’s website, Ferriter stood stoic between her attorneys, her shoulders slumped as she faced the judge.

She waived her right to a trial as the judge asked the defendant a series of questions to ascertain her understanding of the plea agreement.

Coates warned Ferriter that she would face at least 75 months in prison if she violated her probation, with the potential for more time if she found herself in trouble again within five years.

Barely audible, Ferriter said she understood and meekly replied to all the judge’s questions with a simple “yes” or “no” — while showing no emotion and making no additional statements to the court.

As part of the conviction, the judge vanquished Ferriter’s rights to possess a firearm and said she could not vote until after her probation ended and her fine was paid in full. 

As part of the ruling, Coates allowed Ferriter’s lawyers to file a motion to transfer her probation to Cook County, Illinois after she informed the court that Ferriter was planning to move to Chicago to hopefully start a new life.

Coates also banned Ferriter from having any contact with the victim, who is now in foster care, as are the other children. 

Back in October, Ferriter’s husband, Timothy, was found guilty of the same charges, and he was sentenced by Coates on Nov. 15 to five years in state prison, followed by five years probation. 

During his trial, an older adopted sibling testified that the teenage boy faced stricter punishments from their parents than the other children in their care.

“Everything I did was out of love,” Timothy Ferriter told the court before the judge sent him away, according to the Palm Beach Post.

“There were plenty of opportunities that the defendant had to reflect on whether what he was doing was wrong,” Coates said from the bench, according to the local newspaper. “It appears that he never took the time to reflect, and he never concluded that what he was doing was wrong.”

Before the sentence, the victim asked the judge to show leniency to Timothy Ferriter.

“My father was a good person who just made a really serious mistake,” the teenage boy said. “He was not a bad parent.”

Coates ruled previously for both cases to be tried separately, while Tracy Ferriter’s case was delayed while she searched for an attorney to represent her.

Authorities said the abuse happened at the Ferriters’ house in Jupiter’s Egret Landing neighborhood, a well-kept middle-class enclave situated off Central Boulevard, south of Indiantown Road.

Jupiter police began investigating the Ferriters in January 2022 after the child was reported as a runaway. 

Investigators discovered an 8-foot-by-8-foot room in the garage where the child was confined for extended periods of time each day while the room could be unlocked only from the outside. 

According to prosecutors, the teenager was provided a bucket to use as a toilet.

At a preliminary hearing, the unidentified child testified that the abusive behavior began around late December 2021, shortly after the Ferriter family relocated to Jupiter from Arizona after living in Florida previously. 

The abuse continued for approximately six weeks, but authorities did not indicate whether any abuse had occurred previously. 

The teen said the family had lived in another house in Egret Landing before they moved to Arizona and back again.

Before their arrests, Timothy and Tracy Ferriter informed police that their adopted son had allegedly lied, stolen valuables, attacked relatives, and threatened his classmates, asserting that the room was intended as a disciplinary measure to safeguard other family members from potential harm.

Tracy Ferriter also informed investigators that the teen had a history of severe childhood behavioral issues, including ADHD and Reactive Attachment Disorder, which impairs a child’s ability to form emotional bonds.

“We were living a life that’s not what is portrayed in the media,” said Tracy Ferriter as she appeared to hold back tears during a press conference after accepting the plea deal. “There was a lot of things that nobody knew. We were a completely loving family. I love my kids. We just tried to do the best that we could with what we had.”

Tracy Ferriter’s defense attorney, Marc Shiner, said she pleaded guilty to provide “some peace for her family.”

“It was a completely different case than what was presented through her husband’s case,” he told WPTV after the proceedings. “Even though she had a very good chance of being exonerated, she really wanted to put this to rest so her children could have some peace.”

Shiner emphasized that Ferriter is not “a monster” and hoped the case would shine a light on childhood disorders.

“This is a human being that is extremely educated, loving [and who] adopted children out of the goodness of her heart,” Shiner said.

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