ELDORA — An Ackley woman has been released pending sentencing after a judge found her guilty of a lesser charge for confining her fiancé’s son in an enclosure under the basement stairs.

Traci Lynn Tyler, 40, had waived a jury trial on first-degree kidnapping, a charge that carries a life sentence upon conviction, and a bench trial started in February in Hardin County District Court.

In a 30-page decision issued Wednesday, Judge James Ellefson instead found Tyler guilty of false imprisonment, a misdemeanor. The charge is punishable by up to a year in jail.

Tyler was released from the Hardin County Jail on Wednesday after posting $1,500 bond. Sentencing has been set for later this month.

Prosecutors said Tyler and her fiancé, 30-year-old Alex Shadlow, had withheld food from his 8-year-old son, made him sleep in the locked basement enclosure with a coffee can for a toilet in August and September 2017, denied him bathroom breaks and struck him with a wooden spoon and flyswatter.

Tyler’s defense attorneys said the family had sought counseling for behavior issues and argued parents had the right to use corporal punishment.

Ellefson ruled Tyler went beyond acceptable punishment.

“This court finds as a fact that the defendant’s actions constitute confinement, and that they went outside of the bounds of reason and moderation for the best interests of the child,” he wrote in his opinion.

“The confinement substantially increased the risk to (the child). He would have been unable to escape any fire or other calamity, and it would have been substantially more difficult for anyone else to rescue him from a fire or other calamity. There was a substantial increase in risk in that if (he) had become ill while in the enclosure he would not have been able to seek assistance,” the judge wrote.

But Ellefson said the evidence didn’t show other elements to establish the kidnapping offense.

The judge found that despite testimony Tyler struck the child with a flyswatter and wooden spoon, there was no intent to cause serious injury. The judge also said there was no evidence of malnutrition as the child had a normal body mass index.

The judge said it was more likely that the child was holding in his urine by his own choice, and he noted the boy told a mental health counselor that he was urinating and defecating in places other than the toilet because he didn’t like living with Tyler and her rules.

Tyler’s fiancé, 30-year-old Alex Shadlow, is awaiting trial, which is scheduled for September at the Dickinson County Courthouse in Storm Lake following a venue change.

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