Prosecutors may never know why a couple locked away their son for two years in a bedroom with no human contact and little food to eat.
His younger sisters may never know why they weren’t able to see him for those two years. And 18-year-old Mitch Comer may never know why his parents placed him on a bus to California and immediately wiped away all trace of his existence from his Paulding County home.
On Thursday the couple, Mr. Paul and Shelia Comer, pleaded guilty to two counts of false imprisonment and two counts of felony child cruelty for what they did to him, according to the Paulding County District Attorney’s Office.
And they were sentenced to 30 years, half of it to be served in prison.
But there was no hint of remorse for starving and locking away the teen. No explanation of why they wanted to remove every trace of him by getting rid his baby shoes, school work and pictures – some of which were found in the garbage, prosecutors said.
“I was struck by the fact that neither of them expressed any remorse or made any apology,” District Attorney Mr. Dick Donovan said.
Still, prosecutors wanted to get something for the neglected child.
As a condition of the plea deal, the Comers had to forfeit all their assets, which after attorney fees, amounted to about $50,000 – half of which will go to Mitch Comer when he turns 25 and the other half to be split between his two younger sisters, now 12 and 13, when they turn 25, Mr. Donovan said.
By pleading guilty, the Comers avoided a trial and possibly sentences of more than 100 years behind. And prosecutors were able to avoid a possible two-week trial where the children would have had to testify and Mitch Comer would have had to relive the horror of what he endured, Mr. Donovan said.
For two years, the couple locked the teen in a bedroom, deprived him of food and kept him from his sisters. Then the day after his 18th birthday in September, the emaciated teen was placed on a bus with cash and pamphlets for a homeless shelter and told never to return.
Standing at 5 feet, 3 inches and weighing only 87 pounds, a former security guard spotted him at the bus station in California and thought he was a 12-year-old. He called the Los Angeles police and the boy told them how his parents abused him. Stunned to find out his real age, the officers gave him something to eat.
“It was pitiful,” Assistant District Attorney Ms. Dana Norman said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He ate the crackers like they were the only thing he had left in the world.”
Police contacted the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office about the teen and investigators launched an investigation, which led to the arrest of the couple at their upscale, two-story rental home.
Neither Paul nor Sheila Comer has a criminal history, but in 2009 while living in Cherokee County, they were investigated by the state Department of Family and Children Services. No charges were ever filed and the case was closed.
Since returning and being placed in the care of a foster family, Mitch Comer has gained weight, returned to school and is thriving, officials said.
The two girls were placed with a separate foster family, Mr. Donovan said.
The Comer’s attorney Ms. Renee Rockwell said the Comers were only trying to discipline an unruly child, but should have sought help, the AJC reported. She said Mitch Comer was the one who wanted to go to California.
But there was no real explanation for what the parents did. And the timid and thin boy who first appeared in front of investigators could provide no answers.
“Nobody is ever going to know why they did it,” Mr. Donovan said.
Receive daily news stories and stay current by clicking on the subscribe button at the top of the article and get automatic updates via email each time a new article is published. You may also get quick updates on articles as well as read more local news stories at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Atlanta-Public-Safety-Examiner/19583707047.