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Taylor Knope

AMITE  A judge in Tangipahoa Parish agreed Monday to release from jail a woman accused with other family members of holding an autistic relative in a cage.

Twenty-first Judicial District Judge Dough Hughes said Taylor Knope, 20, could move to an inpatient treatment facility for mental health and substance abuse. He did not explain his decision.

Knope's attorneys have argued she should be released because she, too, was a victim and needs help, not further imprisonment. 

"They're holding her because they want her to testify and they want her to plead guilty," federal public defender Claude Kelly told Hughes in court Monday. 

Prosecutors objected strongly, saying she was a perpetrator and not a victim, and must be held to ensure the safety of the autistic relative and ensure her presence in court.

"Based on information we have, Ms. Knope was basically the point person for the torture and detention of the victim in this case," Tangipahoa Parish Assistant District Attorney Britain Sledge said.

Knope faces felony charges in state and federal court. She has been in jail for two years awaiting trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby came to the conclusion in August that Knope should be released, saying she did not think "we serve any legitimate purpose by just putting her in jail pending her trial because she has been systematically abused."

Kelly said he met with Roby on Friday about a plan to move Knope to an inpatient treatment facility in New Orleans. Knope will have a final detention hearing in federal court Wednesday, Kelly said.

Knope's $150,000 bond obligation will remain in place, but approval from both judges would let her out of jail and under supervision of the U.S. Probation Office. She would remain in the treatment center for a 90-day period, at which time Roby would expect a status report.

Knope is accused along with four family members of abusing an autistic relative at a residence on Rushing Lane in Amite.

Authorities say the family forced the autistic woman to live in a locked outdoor cage, forced her to eat her mother's ashes and attempted to traffic her for sex. When Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's deputies raided the residence on June 30, 2016, they found the woman was malnourished and covered in insect bites.

Knope is described in a federal indictment as a perpetrator of the abuse. Prosecutors claim she padlocked the relative in her cage each night and attacked her with a shower rod at the direction of her stepmother, Raylaine Knope.

But Taylor Knope's attorneys have said that is not the full story. In court documents, they claim Raylaine Knope treated Taylor Knope like Cinderella, forcing her to cook and ingest methamphetamine, clean the house and care for young children, while she was prohibited from attending school.

Any abuse Taylor Knope perpetrated on the autistic woman, they say, was done under pressure from her abusive stepmother.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in state court Dec. 3.

Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.