An Iowa man is charged with locking his girlfriend's five children in a bedroom for more than 24 hours without food or access to a bathroom, authorities said Monday.

Deputies who responded to a report of domestic disturbance at a home in Westgate on Friday at 9 a.m. saw several children crying and yelling through a window for help, the Fayette County Sheriff's Office said.


The children, ranging in ages from 3 to 9, told investigators they had been locked inside a bedroom by their mother's boyfriend, Joshua Steinbronn, 28, on several occasions — sometimes for longer than 24 hours.

The room locked from the outside, and the children reported they were unable to leave. One girl told investigators she injured her leg trying to escape.

"The children stated they had to urinate into cups, clothing and baby diapers due to not being allowed to leave the locked room," deputy James Davis wrote in a complaint.

But the children's mother, Jonya Smith, said those allegations were false. She also disputed authorities' claim that the children had been removed by the Department of Human Services, saying they remained in her custody but are under state monitoring.

She said she and Steinbronn had locked the children in their rooms for disciplinary reasons and naps — but never for as long as 24 hours.

She said Steinbronn, who was released from jail Saturday, is not a bad person. She praised him for enforcing respect, calling her kids "uncontrollable."