Des Moines couple accused of zip-tying, abusing, and starving son with special needs plead not guilty; trial date set

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POLK COUNTY, Iowa — A Des Moines mother has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the alleged abuse of her 16-year-old son with special needs.

An attorney for Jennifer Ryan entered a written plea of not guilty in the case earlier this week.

Ryan and her husband, Richard Ryan, are both charged with first-degree kidnapping, neglect, and child endangerment. Richard Ryan entered a not guilty plea earlier this month.

Investigators say the couple used zip ties to restrain their son, confined him to his bedroom, and denied him food.

An investigation into the alleged abuse was begun back in February after a concerned citizen contacted the Iowa Department of Human Services claiming Jennifer took the teen to work with her at Smith Automotive in Pleasant Hill and kept him zip-tied to a chair. That is how investigators found him when they went to the location.

Further investigation revealed the teen was severely malnourished and had wounds from being beaten. Doctors at Blank Park Children’s Hospital said the teen weighed only 78 pounds when they examined him. He was also found to have several non-healing abrasions and bruises that investigators say came from being struck in the face or head with a wooden back scratcher or repeatedly being thrown to the floor.

The trial date for the Ryans has been scheduled for August 2nd, 2021 in Polk County.

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