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Woman may have been kept in outdoor cage since October

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AMITE – The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office released new information about a disturbing human trafficking case that resulted in the arrest of five people.

On June 30, Tangipahoa Sheriff's Office investigators executed a search warrant at a home on Rushing Lane in Amite after receiving a complaint that the occupants of the home were keeping a 22-year-old woman locked up in a cage in the home.

Upon arriving at the home, investigators located the 22-year-old wandering around the back yard. Investigators say the woman suffers from Autism and was forced to live in a make-shift shelter that consisted of a blue tarp draped over a cage that looked similar to a dog kennel. Investigators say she was often locked in the cage at night in order to keep her from wandering off.

Investigators also say that the woman appeared to be malnourished and suffered several insect bites. A five gallon bucket was located in the cage where she was forced to defecate and keep her personal belongings in.

On Thursday, Sheriff Daniel Edwards announced the girl may have been kept in the cage as far back as October. He also said the woman's mother had died, and the victim was related to at least some of the suspects arrested in the case.

The woman was transported to an area hospital where she was evaluated. She has been placed in the care and custody of the Louisiana Department of Health, Adult/Elderly Protective Services.

In addition, four juveniles were removed from the home and placed in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services.

Over the course of the investigation, investigators discovered the five people that were arrested, 18-year-old Taylor Knope, 21-year-old Jody Lambert, 19-year-old Bridget Lambert, 43-year-old Terry Knope and 40-year-old Raylaine Knope conspired to transport the young woman to another location with the intention of prostituting her to multiple men.

The five suspects are currently charged with human trafficking and cruelty to the infirmed. The sheriff doesn't expect there to be more arrests, but did say the investigation is ongoing and the five suspects could face additional charges.

Edwards says he's never seen anything like this in his career.

"There are some very sick individuals in this world and there are some very sick individuals in Tangipoa Parish," he said at a press conference. "Human trafficking doesn't discriminate. It exists in Shreveport, it exists in New Orleans. It exists in Tangipahoa Parish, it exists in St. Tammany Parish. It exists everywhere there are people."

More information to come on evening additions of WBRZ News 2.

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