Spirit Lake jury to consider kidnapping, torture allegations

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

If investigators are correct, the summer of 2017 was hell for a little boy identified in court records as "E.S."

His teachers were alarmed at the start of the school year. E.S. was too thin for his age.

He was always looking for food.

His hair was falling out in patches.

So, teachers and school administrators in the north central Iowa town of Ackley began to ask questions. The answers from their quiet, well-behaved student led to a Department of Humans Services investigation. That investigation led to the arrest of 30-year-old Alex Craig Shadlow.

District Court Judge James C. Ellefson on Monday, Oct. 15, ordered a Jan. 7 trial for Shadlow, who is the 8-year-old boy's biological father. Shadlow's first-degree kidnapping case was moved from Hardin County to find a less-influenced pool of jurors at the Dickinson County Courthouse in Spirit Lake.

E.S.'s mom, 39-year-old Traci Lynn Tyler, faces the same charge. Her kidnapping trial also will be heard by a separate pool of jurors. A trial date hasn't been set for her relocated case at the Cerro Gordo County Courthouse in Mason City.

Agent Jim Thiele of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations signed the affidavit that served as the foundation of a criminal complaint on July 17, 2018. He is prepared to testify about the conditions E.S. stayed in a year earlier from July to early September 2017.

"E.S. was locked in an enclosed 6-by-6-foot area under the basement stairs for prolonged periods of time nine hours or longer each day," he told the court.

Thiele said the boy's parents only let him out to attend school, which was just across the street.

"There was no light in the basement enclosure and the floors were made out of cement," he said. "The makeshift 'door' was secured from the outside by a lock."

E.S. couldn't get out of his dark enclosure to use the bathroom, the agent continued.

"A makeshift toilet, actually a small, tin coffee can, was placed in the enclosure for E.S.," he said.

E.S. slept near or in his own urine under the stairs. He didn't have a pillow, blanket or mattress. The parents also tormented E.S. by telling him a "dog had died" or was buried in the same, confined space.

For more than two months, investigators think Shadlow and Tyler deprived him of food. They used a locked door to keep the 8-year-old away from the kitchen.

Shadlow "repeatedly assaulted E.S. with the handle of a fly swatter and urged their dog to bite and attack E.S.," according to Thiele's affidavit.

The young boy has signs of post-traumatic stress. He also sustained permanent scaring on his back and limbs, but defense attorneys would like to block or limit the number of photographs and videos because the images could "inflame the jury's emotion and rouse hostility against" Shadlow.

"E.S. eventually told his teacher he was being locked in the basement under the stairs after school each day and not released until the next morning and being deprived of food," Thiele said. "The school made a report to DHS, which led to an unannounced home visit. The DHS worker observed and photographed the enclosure under the basement stairs and (Shadlow) admitted it was where they locked E.S. each night to sleep because of his bad behavior and food-stealing."

Shadlow said he is not guilty in the written arraignment and plea signed on Aug. 2 and has waived his right to a trial within 90 days.

Hardin County Attorney Darrell Meyer and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan successfully asked the court to allow E.S. to testify through a closed-circuit television. Attorneys and the judge expect to call 90 Dickinson County residents to jury duty for the case. Shadlow will be able to wear street clothes during the trial.

Shadlow and Tyler remain in custody at the Hardin County Jail in Eldora on $500,000 cash-only bonds. First-degree kidnapping is a Class A felony that carries a potential life sentence in prison.

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