ATLANTA — A Georgia couple accused of locking their teenage son in a bedroom for years with little food had been investigated for abuse previously.
Paul and Sheila Comer were arrested last week after 18-year-old Mitch Comer was found at a Los Angeles bus station. He told authorities his stepfather gave him $200 and a list of homeless shelters before he was put on a bus to the city on his 18th birthday.
In February 2009, according to a report, state child welfare officials alerted the Cherokee County sheriff’s office to an abuse accusation about the Comers. The incident report says the couple’s son claimed his parents made him get on his knees and rest his head against a wall with his hands behind him for hours at a time. The boy also claimed his father spanked him with a belt for no reason.
The sheriff’s office closed the case, considering the accusation unfounded.
On Sept. 11, a retired police sergeant working security at a downtown Los Angeles bus station noticed Mitch Comer. Police decided to investigate further because the 87-pound teenager stood just over 5 feet tall and looked much younger, Los Angeles police said last week. He told authorities he had suffered years of abuse after being taken out of school in the eighth grade.
Arrest warrants filed Sept. 12 and 13 say the Comers, who now live in Paulding County, “made Mitch kneel on the floor, bend his head and place his forehead against the wall, and place his hands behind his head for long periods of time.” The boy said he was fed small quantities of food daily, Los Angeles police said.
Paul Comer and Sheila Comer face charges of false imprisonment and cruelty to children, Paulding County jail records show. They are being held without bond pending a hearing Oct. 4.
Scott Smith, a lawyer for Paul Comer, said Wednesday he wasn’t aware of the earlier investigation and would have to get a copy to see whether it would have any bearing on the new case. A lawyer for Sheila Comer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The 2009 abuse investigation report was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV.