After four years of captivity, a missing boy has been found and returned to his family. The drama began four years ago, when the boy, now 13, disappeared from his home in Florida. Investigators at the time had no evidence, and while the boy's estranged father was a suspect, no charges were ever brought. Four years later, the missing boy was still allegedly in the captivity of his father and step-mother living in Georgia, where he says they beat him and shoved him into a closet for hours at a time.
After taking a cell phone, the missing boy, once again pushed into a space behind a false wall in a closet, used an app to contact his mother and tell her where he was. She called police, who made a "welfare check" on the home, even searching it, but they found nothing. Another call was made, and police returned to the home, this time in contact with the boy's mother, who talked them directly to the hidden space where he was being held and was eventually found in.
The drama ended when the police took the missing boy they'd found back to his mother and arrested the father, step-mother, and three others on charges of obstruction, false imprisonment, and cruelty to children (more charges are coming).
"It was a shock to all of us."
A neighbor, interviewed on local television station WXIA, said that they had seen the missing boy doing yard work and other chores, and were told he was being homeschooled. Nothing appeared amiss before he was found.
The missing boy, found yesterday, was reported to child welfare authorities in Florida four years ago as missing and possibly kidnapped. The Daily Mail reports that the boy's location had long been known. He'd been sent to Georgia to visit his father, who then refused to send him back. The boy's mother, unsure of what to do, did not report it as a kidnapping. It wasn't until he contacted her saying he was being beaten that she called authorities.
The ongoing investigation may uncover more questions about the situation, as the missing boy that was found and the facts around the situation are discovered. The initial charges stem from the family in the home lying to police officers and attempting to hide the boy, rather than for kidnapping or similar charges.
For now, the boy is in the custody of child services until proof of his guardianship is found, though it is believed to lie with his mother, who has traveled to Georgia to be with her son.
[Photo credit: WXIA-TV]