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.
The young man, Mitch Comer, stood 5-foot-1 and weighed 87 pounds when he raised the suspicion of a guard at a bus station in downtown Los Angeles last month. He said he was put on a bus by his stepfather, Paul Comer, on his 18th birthday with a few hundred dollars cash and a list of homeless shelters. Mitch Comer told detectives he was subjected to years of abuse after being taken out of school in eighth grade, confined to a bathroom and bedroom and shielded from sunlight for at least two years.
Detectives described their interviews with the teen and his family Thursday during a hearing that ended with Paul Comer and the teen's mother, Sheila Comer, being denied bond. The teen's two sisters, ages 11 and 13, thought he had brown hair but never saw him, said Paulding County Sheriff's Detective Kyle Shelton.
"He screams for food and screams to go to the bathroom. That's all (the sisters) know of their brother," Shelton said.
Paulding County Magistrate Judge Martin Valbuena said he would consider releasing the Comers on bond after authorities investigate an assertion by prosecutors that the family had lived at 15 addresses in five states since the late 1990s.
Paul Comer's lawyer, Scott Smith, said the different addresses were purely innocent, as the family moved often for work purposes.
During the hearing, Detective Kevin Morgan testified that the Comers conceded the teen had been confined to the room as punishment. Paul Comer also has told investigators they sent Mitch Comer to Los Angeles because he wanted to be an actor.
The detectives described Mitch Comer's confinement, which he says began in a 6-by-8 bathroom locked by a deadbolt. The house was filthy and smelled bad, the detectives said, but the bathroom was spotless — Mitch Comer told them he cleaned it often to escape boredom.
He told investigators he was held there for a year before being moved to an adjoining bedroom, where the door was blocked by a refrigerator. When asked why he didn't escape through a window, Shelton said, Mitch Comer replied: "I'm afraid of bugs."