TITUSVILLE, Fla. — When Florida police checked out a child abuse report, they found an emaciated boy lying on the floor inside a locked bathroom at his home, apparently punished for stealing food. The boy was rushed to the hospital where workers said he resembled a concentration camp survivor, and they treated him for malnutrition and dehydration.
The 12-year-old boy’s father and his girlfriend have been charged with aggravated child abuse and child neglect. Two other kids at the home have been removed as child welfare officials investigate.
According to a police report, the boy – weighing just 40 pounds – was locked in a bathroom, strapped to a bed or caged in a closet for days or weeks at a time over the past year.
Brevard County Jail records show 38-year-old Michael Marshall and 48-year-old Sharon Glass have been charged with three counts each of aggravated child abuse and three counts each of child neglect. A judge ordered both be held without bond. It is not immediately clear if they have an attorney.
The Titusville Police Department received a report of a young child being unlawfully caged and suffering from abuse, though the report doesn’t spell out whether there was a cage inside the closet. Authorities in Titusville have not returned telephone calls from The Associated Press.
Marshall is the father of the 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. Glass is the mother of the 5 year-old boy.
The two other children at the home were being seen by doctors, said Carrie Hoeppner, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families.
“No doubt that the younger two have been subjected to mental abuse,” Hoeppner said.
Marshall also has a 17-year-old son with his ex-wife, Lisa Minshall, 36, who lives in southwestern Ohio. She said her son was still an infant when she and Marshall divorced, and Marshall hasn’t seen him since he was 3.
“I kind of feel sick, and I’m kind of happy that that situation didn’t happen to me and my son,” Minshall said. “If I would have stayed around long enough, he probably would have been abusive to his first son.”
Marshall was arrested on a criminal domestic violence charge in Ohio in 1995, records showed. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he was convicted.
Welfare officials investigated neglect and concerns about the home environment in the summer of 2010. Once the investigation was closed, the boy was taken out of school and went “unnoticed for so long,” Hoeppner said. There were no other reports from the home or contact between welfare officials and the couple.
Brevard Public Schools spokeswoman Christine Davis said the boy was removed from the system for homeschooling in August 2010. Records shows the boy was moved to a private school less than two months later, but the name of the private school wasn’t listed.
The couple’s home is located in Titusville, about 40 miles east of Orlando on the coast. The town was known as a good place to watch space shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral.
Myrtle Wilcox, a neighbor, said she hadn’t seen the boy since November, when he was outside on the front lawn playing with a dog.
“The boy looked to be about 8- or 10-years-old,” Wilcox said.
She said he was slender but nothing seemed wrong.
On Christmas Eve, Wilcox said Marshall had come over to get help jumping a car. He and his girlfriend wanted to go to a store to buy last minute gifts for their children.
“Just ordinary people,” Wilcox said. “Going to work and tending to their own business and taking care of their family. That’s the only thing I could assume about them.”
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