PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. - A Channel 2 Action News crew observed investigators entering the home of a Paulding County couple accused of trapping their teenage boy in a room and giving him little food.
Paul and Sheila Comer are accused of hiding a severe case of child cruelty that went uncovered for years at their house on Vivid Lane in Dallas.
"I have not run into anything like this in this state," Paulding County District Attorney Dick Donovan said.
Investigators believe their teen son, Mitch was locked up and abused for years, and no one but family members knew he existed until he turned up at a bus station in Los Angeles recently.
Donovan left stunned after sheriff's deputies arrested the Comers on child cruelty and false imprisonment charges Sept. 12. Deputies believe the couple kept the 18-year-old, locked up in either a basement or a blacked out bedroom with little food for four years.
"I'm really disappointed, and I'm really depressed to find out that we have things like this in this county. And the really depressing thing is this is just the one that we know about," Donovan told Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant.
Last week, the teen was spotted alone and disoriented at a downtown Los Angeles bus station. A retired city officer working security called police because he thought the teen appeared to be 12 or 13.
"He weighed 97 pounds. He's 5-foot-3. The LAPD officer said his skin was translucent, that he was obviously malnourished," Donovan said.
Channel 2 has also been unable to find records of the teen or his siblings attending any area schools.
Donavan said Mitch Comer told police about the abuse, and that his stepfather drove him to Mississippi and put him on a bus to California on his 18th birthday with $200 and a list of homeless shelters. After several days in a Los Angeles hospital and nearly a week in a group home, Paulding County investigators flew out to return the teen to Georgia.
Diamant had an exclusive interview with investigator Monica Moore, who was sent to pick up the teen.
"He's a small, small young man. I call him my young man. He's very polite, very timid, but surprising to me he let us in," she said.
The district attorney’s office found a family willing to care for him. The state child care agency can’t help him because he’s over 18, and Adult Protective Services can't step in because he hasn't been declared disabled.
"I made sure that he knew that once he came here he had a lot of people here helping him," Moore said.
Meanwhile, neighbors in the Comer’s subdivision said they never knew the teen existed.
"It completely blows me away. It's very nerve-racking. It's like a Lifetime movie. It's something that you would never imagine next door to you," Dion Walker said.
Diamant tracked down Mitch Comer's grandmother in Iowa, who said she hadn't seen the teen’s mother in years and always suspected he was in trouble.
"It is not shocking to me. I figured this is what's going on, but I didn't know how to stop it," Diane Powell told Diamant over the phone.
Investigators said the Comers' two daughters also lived at the Dallas home. The girls are now in state custody.
Deputies, along with state investigators and the FBI are investigating the case.
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