Father waives hearing in neglect case involving autistic son

Apr. 19—A 34-year-old father waived a preliminary hearing this week on a charge of neglecting his autistic 5-year-old son.

Caleb A. Olds, of rural Joplin, waived the hearing Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court on a felony count of child abuse and neglect and was ordered bound over for trial. His initial appearance in a trial division was set for May 1.

The case came to light Feb. 7 when a caller reported finding a naked 5-year-old boy unsupervised near a highway outside Joplin. A probable-cause affidavit states that the child was cold, covered in mud and unable to speak due to his disability.

Jasper County deputies responding to the call found Olds, the boy's father, inside their nearby home, completely unaware that his son had gone outside, according to the affidavit. One of the deputies wrote in the affidavit that conditions inside their residence were "unacceptable," with knives, a loaded Airsoft pistol, drug paraphernalia, cigarette butts and unwashed clothes laying about rooms overrun with cockroaches.

Further investigation purportedly determined that the boy had been diagnosed with autism but had not seen a doctor since 2021, according to the affidavit.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe.