No jail time for former Univ. of Florida scientist who apparently kept his kids in makeshift cages; wife’s case pending

News & Politics

A former scientist at the University of Florida will not have to serve jail time and may even have his record cleared someday even though he and his wife reportedly kept their two children in makeshift cages at various times of the day.

In December 2023, a 6-year-old Gainesville boy reported to authorities that he did not want to return home because he didn’t like being locked inside a cage. Members of the Gainesville Police Department and the Department of Children and Families immediately went to investigate the boy’s claims and were apparently horrified by what they saw.

In the 6-year-old’s bedroom, officers found “a large unsanded, wooden enclosure” with “two stainless steel sliding latches (aka barrel bolts) on the outside of the enclosure’s door,” the affidavit said. The young boy also took investigators into his parents’ bedroom closet. On the floor there, they reportedly found a crib for the boy’s 2-year-old sibling turned upside down.

Police soon arrested the children’s parents: Dustin Michael Gerard Huff, 35, and Yurui Xie, 31. Both were charged with two felony charges of aggravated child abuse and one felony charge of child neglect without serious bodily harm.

At the time of their arrest, both were employed at the University of Florida. Huff was a scientist in the Department of Horticulture Sciences. Xie, a Chinese citizen, was a safety manager and research biologist in the Plant Pathology Department. Both now appear to be banned from all university property.

When questioned, Huff reportedly described the boy’s box as a “bed frame” and claimed he was kept there only at night to prevent him from “waking up in the middle of the night and disturbing the house.”

However, Xie allegedly claimed that the boy was also kept in the box “for a few hours” after school as well. She allegedly admitted that she would return home from work, lock the boy inside the enclosure, then return to her job. Because the boy has ADHD and is frequently “disobedient,” she and her husband have had difficulty finding child care, she allegedly told police.

As for the upside-down crib, Xie supposedly said that her 2-year-old child figured out how to escape from the crib when placed inside it properly. Thus, she allegedly said, the couple placed the child underneath the upside-down crib for the child’s safety. In their reports, police said that the upturned crib left metal wires and springs dangerously exposed.

When pressed, Xie reportedly acknowledged that she knew trapping a toddler in an upside-down crib was “wrong” but then reportedly blamed her “husband” for going through with it anyway.

On Monday, Huff pled no contest to one count of felony child neglect without causing great bodily harm and received a sentence of five years’ probation. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped the other two charges against him and recommended a withheld sentence. In other words, as long as he fulfills the conditions of his probation, he can have his record wiped clean at the end of it.

Xie is scheduled to appear in court on Monday. Neither she nor her husband had a criminal record prior to their arrest in December. The children have been placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families.

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