ELDORA, Iowa – She faced up to life in prison, but now the maximum sentence possible for Traci Lynn Tyler is one year in jail. And with credit for time served, she may remain free.
“It’s disappointing to see someone get charged in a lesser crime than what we might think that they deserve,” says Prevent Child Abuse Iowa Marketing and Development Manager Alli Moerman.
Police arrested Tyler in July 2018 for first degree kidnapping, a class A felony.
Investigators say she and her boyfriend Alex Shadlow locked his eight year-old son in a six-by-six foot area under the basement stairs.
According to criminal documents, the child spent nine plus hours in the dungeon-like space with no light, cement floors and a makeshift door, padlocked from the outside. He had no pillow or bedding and was forced to sleep on the floor in his own urine.
“Some of the things we saw in this case were food stealing or resource hoarding,” says Moerman.
As punishment, the child was forced to sweep and mop at the bar and grill Tyler worked at wearing a backpack full of rocks.
“I got called again that the boy was being punished that day by the parents. He was carrying weights making multiple circles around the garage,” said Ackley Police Chief Brian Shimon.
The child says Tyler hit him with a fly swatter, a wooden spoon and a spatula. But the court says his testimony was “not fully credible… mostly from the limited ability of a nine year-old to accurately report events that occurred nearly a year and a half before.”
“They don’t make those things up very often. So we try to encourage people that when they hear something strange coming from a child, to take that seriously,” said Moerman.
The child’s teachers called the Department of Human Services to report him looking “skeletal” with yellow toned skin and missing patches of hair.
“They saved his life. That child is safe now. He doesn’t have to go home to a dangerous situation,” exclaimed Moerman.
But Tyler is safe too, and currently free on bond. She waived her right to a jury trial and on Wednesday Judge James Ellefson declared “Because the court cannot find any required intent to inflict serious injury and therefore cannot find the defendant guilty of any grade of kidnapping.”
Judge Ellefson did convict Tyler of false imprisonment, saying “In finding the defendant guilty of a lesser included offense, the court does not intend to suggest the defendant’s treatment of this child was in any way acceptable. Confinement in an enclosure beneath the basement steps was, in and of itself, egregious and outrageous, regardless of the defendant’s intent. Finding the defendant guilty of false imprisonment is a complete rejection of her claim that this was somehow within the proper bounds of discipline.”
The serious misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Tyler will be sentenced on April 26th in Hardin County.
Shadlow’s kidnapping trial is scheduled for September.