Pennsylvania couple kept young sons locked in cellar for days, cops say

A cruel Pennsylvania couple kept their three young sons locked in an empty coal cellar called “the hole” for days at a time, police said.

Richard Hayes, 37, of Mount Oliver, and Natosha Bell, 26, of Rankin, were arrested Wednesday at McClure Elementary School in White Oak, where Hayes’ 11-year-old son refused to get into his car at dismissal time, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The frightened boy said he didn’t want to be handcuffed again as he clung to a school employee, a witness told police.

Hayes opened the minivan’s door and a school employee spotted the couple’s two other children, ages 7 and 10, both in handcuffs, according to the complaint.

White Oak police detained the couple and said Hayes also had a loaded handgun with him. Allegheny County police took the three boys into emergency custody and they later told authorities at a hospital of the brutal treatment they endured, according to the complaint.

Cops said Hayes is the father of the two older boys, while Bell is the mother of the 7- and 10-year-old boys. The three youngsters each said they were locked in “the hole” for several days at a time. One child claimed he was held captive for an entire weekend, the complaint states.

Detectives later found evidence backing up the abuse claims at Hayes’ home, WPXI reported.

Police said “the hole” was actually an empty coal cellar that had no lights or water and a concrete floor.

Another room in the basement was also referred to as “the cell,” the boys told police while describing the bucket they were forced to use as a toilet. The 7-year-old boy said he was locked away in the room without mattresses or pillows for taking food when he was hungry, the complaint states.

The 7-year-old also said Hayes forced his head underwater in a bathtub, which he admitted to investigators, according to the complaint. Hayes also reportedly told cops he made the three boys sleep on a basement floor and that he had handcuffed them at times.

Natosha Bell was also arrested for the alleged crime.
Natosha Bell was also arrested.
Allegheny County Police

The couple is facing 14 charges in all, including aggravated assault, false imprisonment and child endangerment. Hayes was also charged with possessing a weapon on school property.

A judge denied bail Thursday for Hayes. The status of Bell’s bail was not immediately available, the Tribune-Review reported Thursday.

“This is perhaps one of the most serious incidents of child abuse I’ve seen in my career,” Allegheny County Police Inspector Michael Peairs told KDKA. “If it weren’t for the 11-year-old refusing to enter the vehicle and the school officials and police officers — if they hadn’t noticed what was going on and the red flags and indicators — the abuse could have continued.”

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