TROY, Mo. (AP) – Two people have pleaded not guilty in the staged kidnapping of a 6-year-old boy in eastern Missouri.

Police say the boy’s mother, grandmother and aunt planned the ruse last week to scare him, because they believed he was too nice to people. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office says the family wanted to teach him about possible danger from strangers.

The sheriff’s office says the women enlisted a co-worker of the boy’s aunt to help.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports all four appeared in court Tuesday. The co-worker and grandmother pleaded not guilty to charges of felony kidnapping, felonious restraint, and abuse or neglect of a child.

A prosecutor says the Troy mother and aunt have applied for public defenders. Their next court hearing is set for Feb. 26.

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