Trial set to start for Jupiter man accused of confining child in box-like room in garage
Jupiter police charged the couple with aggravated child abuse after alleging they made one of their children live in an 8-foot box in their garage.
JULIUS WHIGHAM II Palm Beach Post
WEST PALM BEACH — Jury selection for the trial of a Jupiter man accused of confining his adopted teenage child in a box-like structure in the family's garage began today at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach.
Timothy Ferriter, 48, faces one count each of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment following his February 2022 arrest. On Thursday, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office said it was filing an additional charge of child neglect. Ferriter pleaded not guilty to the new charge Friday and previously pleaded not guilty to the other charges.
Opening arguments are expected to take place Tuesday, with testimony running through much of the week.
At the time of Ferriter's arrest, Jupiter police alleged he and his wife, Tracy, had kept one of their four children confined for multiple hours at a time in an 8-by-8 foot structure constructed in the garage of their Egret Landing home.
Among other allegations, police said the couple provided the juvenile with a bucket to use as a toilet, fed the child leftovers from meals they first provided to the rest of the family, and monitored the child's activities through a surveillance camera, while keeping the child locked in a structure that could only be opened from the outside.
The trial will be the first of two connected to the case. Tracy Ferriter, 47, also faces charges of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment.
Circuit Judge Howard Coates granted a motion filed last month by Timothy Ferriter's attorney to sever the couple as co-defendants and set Timothy's Ferriter's trial to go first.
In her motion, defense attorney Prya Murad noted that Tracy Ferriter made statements to Jupiter police and state Child Protective Services workers while Timothy Ferriter was out of the country on a business trip, and argued that those statements could prejudice Timothy Ferriter's case.
In a separate hearing, Coates ruled that he would permit evidence from the family's time living in Arizona to be introduced at trial.
The couple lived in Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter from 2004 until 2017, when they moved to a home outside Tucson. In late 2021, the family moved back to Jupiter, just a few streets from their previous house in Egret Landing, a community along Central Boulevard.
Records show that the child ran away from the family's home in Arizona on at least two occasions in the weeks prior to the family's return to Florida, and had run away again in Jupiter just days before the Ferriters' arrests.
On Tuesday, Timothy Ferriter rejected a plea offer from the state of two years in prison followed by five years of probation. If he is convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
Murad argued that the child had a pattern of disruptive behavior that began when the child was young and continued as the child got older.
After she had reported the teen missing, Tracy Ferriter told Jupiter police the child has a history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and a condition known as reactive attachment disorder, according to police reports. She told officers the disorder causes the child to become upset and avoid confrontation.
Records show the couple told investigators in Arizona that the child was adopted at age 17 months. The Ferriters also told Arizona investigators the child had been going to counseling and therapy for reasons that were not specified in a report.
Julius Whigham II is a criminal justice and public safety reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, at @JuliusWhigham.