It took police 30 minutes and help from secret text messages to find the dark attic hiding place where a missing 13-year-old boy was forced to stay when Georgia cops arrived at the home looking for him.
The boy, who police said had been physically assaulted by his father and a woman they identified as the boy's stepmother, was found crouching among wooden beams and insulation after being forced to hide in a crawl space above the garage of the Jonesboro, Georgia, home, police said today.
Clayton County Police Sgt. Joanne Southerland said the boy was "fearful" when police found him in the early hours of Saturday morning.
"There was no light when I saw him," she said of the discovery in the space above the garage "where nobody would live."
The boy, who has not been publicly identified, was last seen by his mother in Florida in 2009 when he left to go to an arranged visit with his biological father in Georgia. The mother and son were reunited on Saturday after he downloaded a messaging service called Magic Jack on a cell phone and used that to contact his mother, who then called police.
"She indicated that she's been trying to make contact to her son in reference to reuniting with each other as a family," Chief of Police Gregory Porter said at a press conference this afternoon.
"She made mention that she knew he was in the state of Georgia, but she did not specifically say that he was in Jonesboro," he said.
Police had trouble tracking him down even after getting the address, however, and made two trips to the home. Southerland said the first officers returned without finding the boy after people at the home said they did not know about the boy.
Southerland, a veteran of child abuse cases, decided to return to the house. "While en route, we get call from boy’s mother," the spokesman said.
Southerland said they found the boy with the kid's help who was texting information to his mother.
"While we were still on scene he gave a lot more descriptive details to his mother... We weren’t going to leave until we found him," she said. It took about 30 minutes for the officers to locate a linen closet in the house that led to an attic crawl space above the garage where the terrified boy was hiding.
Five people were arrested at the house, including the boy's biological father Gregory Jean Sr., 37, and Stephanie Davis,42, who police identified as the boy's stepmother though it is not clear if Jean and Davis were married. Three teenagers in the home, all of whom are believed to be Davis' children, were also arrested police said. Southerland said that all of the individuals in the home denied knowing about the 13-year-old.
"There was a lot of deception but no physical disruption," Southerland said.
Southerland said that it appeared as if the victim had been living in a room he shared with someone else in the residence and had been moved to the crawlspace to hide him from police.
"I think it's just a reminder that we don't know what happens behind closed doors," Southerland said.
Police said the boy had been physically assaulted on the day he contacted his mother and that there was no indication that the boy was attending any school.
Jean's neighbors told ABC News that they once saw the teen sweeping the roof of the home, and while they thought it was a dangerous chore they did not suspect that he was being held captive.
"He's the only one I've seen who's outside working on the yard," one neighbor told ABC News.
Jean and Davis are being held without bond and next scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 9.
ABC News' Steve Osunsami contributed to this report.