DALLAS, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia teen was so malnourished he still had his baby teeth at age 18 and was so isolated that his sisters who lived in the same home had no contact with him aside from hearing his screams, detectives testified Thursday.
"He screams for food and screams to go to the bathroom. That's all they know of their brother," said Detective Kyle Shelton with the Paulding County Sheriff's Office.
Eighteen-year-old Mitch Comer's stepfather, Paul Comer, and mother, Sheila Comer, told investigators they confined the teen to the room for punishment.
"They both conceded that that was his life," Detective Kevin Morgan said.
Paul and Sheila Comer were arrested last month and face charges of cruelty to children and false imprisonment after the teen raised the suspicion of a security guard at a Los Angeles bus station. He had $200 and a list of homeless shelters he said was given to him by his stepfather on his 18th birthday, though Paul Comer has said the teen wanted to be an actor. Mitch Comer said he suffered years of abuse after being taken out of school in eighth grade.
The Comers appeared in Paulding County Magistrate Court on Thursday for a probable cause hearing dressed in orange and white striped jail suits with their ankles and wrists chained.
Mitch Comer told investigators he was confined to a bathroom for a year and wasn't fed often, occasionally getting soup or cereal but little of substance, Morgan said. The Comers' two daughters, who are 11 and 13, told investigators they "thought he had brown hair" but never saw him, Shelton testified.
The boy, just 5-foot-1 and weighing 87 pounds when he was found in a downtown Los Angeles bus station, was so slight that he looked far younger than 18 and still had his baby teeth, which doctors said was a result of malnourishment, Morgan said.
"I thought he was a 12-year-old boy," Morgan said of the teen. The teen's skin was translucent and he told investigators he hadn't seen the sun in two years, Morgan said.
Authorities say the Comers sometimes made Mitch Comer kneel on the floor with his forehead against a wall, his hands behind his head and his feet lifted off the ground. Mitch Comer told investigators he sometimes had to remain in that position for six to eight hours, while Paul Comer said it was only 40 minutes at a time.
Paul Comer told investigators he brought Mitch Comer food at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. each day and fed him whatever the family was eating. Paul Comer said he sometimes encouraged his stepson to go outside, but that the teen declined.
Mitch Comer told investigators that he was first locked in a bathroom that measures about 6 feet by 8 feet for about a year and that the bathroom door had a deadbolt on it so he couldn't get out. Then he was moved to the adjoining bedroom. He couldn't get out of the door because there was a refrigerator pushed in front of it, he told investigators. Shelton said he asked the teen why he never tried to escape through the window, and the teen responded, "I'm afraid of bugs."
The entire house was dirty and smelled bad, the detectives said, but the bathroom where Mitch Comer stayed was sparkling clean. The teen said he used to clean it because he had nothing else to do, Shelton said.
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