Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- A Dewitt woman is in jail, accused of locking her 3-year-old son in a filthy room.
The cold brick exterior of a small apartment building on East James Street hid what police believe became a little boy's prison. It is one of many cases Investigator Randy Andrews will never understand.
"It's probably one of the most disheartening, anytime you see an innocent child treated like this. Basically, I think I've seen animals treated better than this,” said Town of Dewitt Police Investigator Randy Andrews.
Court documents lay out the disturbing story of a toddler allegedly locked in his room for up to 22 hours a day by his mother, Heather Lacey.
One witness told investigators: "All of the times I have been in the apartment I never saw [the child] out of his room. I've heard the [the child] banging the walls inside the room and Heather didn't do anything."
Inside, a case worker found the 3-year-old naked on his bed, surrounded by flies, covered in urine, with feces on the wall and his bed, according to an affidavit filed in court. The documents say Lacey admitted the child was let out of his room once a day for one meal.
A case worker's statement explained: "Heather stated if [the child] wanted food, he could have asked for it. I found that troubling because he is three years old and couldn't talk. The only food in the residence that I observed was candy and Cheetos."
“She said that she knew when the child was hungry by the way he yelled. It was a hunger yell, instead of just a regular yell,” Investigator Andrews said. “So, he wasn't really verbalizing what he wanted, probably because he doesn't know how to verbalize what he wants.”
Another caseworker recalls in an affidavit: "I noted that Heather stated several times that she didn't choose to have [the child]." Later she added, "I asked her if she loved him, but she wouldn't respond to me."
The caseworker continued: "Heather told me she was locked in her room in filth when she was a kid."
For many neighbors, the explanation is hard to accept.
“There's things like adoption. There are too many options for you to have a child that you just completely don't want. There are just too many options out there and I don't think that’s acceptable,” said neighbor Kevanya Reese.
Police said 25-year-old Heather Lacey told a judge she is unemployed. Lacey is charged with unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child. She’s being held on $5,000 cash bail or bond.