DALLAS, Ga. — Investigators were planning to search the suburban home of a Georgia couple accused of child cruelty after an emaciated 18-year-old said he was kept there in isolation for years and then dumped by bus in Los Angeles.
Police cars were parked Friday morning outside the home where authorities allege Mitch Comer was kept in such seclusion that his two younger sisters in the same house did not know what he looked like, Paulding County sheriff's Cpl. Ashley Henson said.
"The sisters haven't seen the brother in over two years," Henson said. "They didn't even know what color his hair was."
Neighbors on the quiet cul-de-sac of two-story brick and vinyl siding homes, about 30 miles outside Atlanta, said the couple kept to themselves and the two girls didn't ride the neighborhood school bus or leave their yard.
Stepfather Paul Comer and mother Sheila Comer faced charges of false imprisonment and cruelty to children, Paulding County jail records show. They were being held without bond. The records did not indicate whether the Comers have an attorney.
The FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have joined the case, Henson said.
Mitch Comer told police his stepfather gave him $200 and a list of homeless shelters before he was put on a bus to Los Angeles on this 18th birthday, police in Los Angles said Thursday.
Retired Los Angeles police Sgt. Joe Gonzalez was working security at a downtown bus station Sept. 11 when he spotted the teenage boy, who stood just over 5 feet tall and looked much younger, Los Angeles police said in a statement Thursday.
The boy told Gonzalez his stepfather declared that he was now a man before putting the teen on a bus.
Because he was so childlike, police worried that he wasn't as old as he claimed and decided to investigate further. The teen told authorities he had suffered years of abuse after being taken out of school in the eighth grade.
Paul Comer had his own business repairing home appliances, said next-door neighbor John White. They rarely spoke.
Comer's wife never left the house unless she was with her husband, not even to check the mail, White said. Their two daughters would sometimes come outside and play, but only in the back yard. Neighbors assumed the girls didn't go to school either — they never caught the bus that picked up other children in the cul-de-sac every morning.
Neighbors said they had no clue the Comers had a son until a detective came knocking at their doors asking questions last week.
"I had no idea, no clue. There were no signs of a son at all," said Dion Walker, who's lived next to the Comers for two years. "The few occasions we would see them go to the van, it was always the parents and the two girls."
Walker said police swarmed the Comers' home last week, arresting the parents and taking both girls into protective custody.
Walker said the Comer family did not take part in neighborhood association meetings and their girls never attended the neighborhood Halloween block parties.