Judge: Handcuffed teen to stay with foster family

February 7, 2013 - 10:31 PM
Handcuffed Teen

Crystal Anderson talks to the media about her neighbors who had handcuffed their 17-year-old son to a post in the basement of their apartment Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. On Monday, police rescued the boy, who had been kept in the basement since September, after receiving a tip from Anderson. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City teenager who was found handcuffed to a steel pole in his basement will continue to stay with a foster family and plans to start attending classes again next week, a court officer said Thursday.

At a probable cause hearing in Clay County, juvenile court officer Alan Gremli urged a judge to allow the 17-year-old to stay with foster parents because the living conditions at his home were dangerous. Circuit Judge K. Elizabeth Davis agreed and set a March 7 hearing to revisit the custody issue.

One of the teen's neighbors, Crystal Anderson, contacted the Missouri Children's Division on Monday and said she suspected the boy was being abused. Kansas City police found him in the dark basement curled in a fetal position, shivering on the cold, concrete floor and appearing frail.

Police spokesman Capt. Steve Young said no charges against the teen's father, stepmother or stepbrother were expected Thursday, and it could be days before anything is filed.

Gremli told The Associated Press on Thursday that since being rescued, the boy has enrolled in school and will start attending next week.

"Prior to the hearing, he talked about how he was doing well at his foster home, and that his foster parents had made homemade pizza the night before," Grimli said. "He's doing well and feels good about where he is."

Anderson, 24, said she had seen the boy handcuffed to a door in his home about two weeks ago, and decided to call authorities after hearing a commotion in the residence the night before.

Investigators arrived at the north Kansas City townhome less than an hour after her call and found the teen, his face "sunken in on the sides and his eyes had a look of desperation," according to the police report.

A Kansas City police officer who responded to the home Monday wrote that the teen repeated, "I didn't do anything" several times. The boy was wearing dirty blue jeans, a dirty, long-sleeved shirt and socks. He had only a few thin blankets to keep warm.

He told investigators he had been kept in the basement since his father took him out of school in late September — first with the door locked and later handcuffed to a bed rail. The teen said in November, after the second time he tried to escape for food, he was handcuffed to the steel support pole.

He said he was fed a packet of instant oatmeal around 4 a.m. each day, a pack of noodles during the day and bologna sandwiches at night.

Paul Fregeau, assistant superintendent with the 19,000-student North Kansas City School District, said news of the teen's condition greatly affected some teachers and staff members.

"I continue to run across people who were extremely moved and touched — some to tears — when they found out what kind of conditions this boy was allegedly subjected to in his home," Fregeau said. "We have some staff getting get-well and thinking-of-you cards together, and now they're trying to figure out how to get them to him."

Anderson said she became friends with the teen after she moved into the apartment complex in August. For the first month, she said she usually saw him playing outside from the time she got up until about 10 p.m.

After that, Anderson said did not see him until she went to his home about two weeks ago and saw him handcuffed to a basement door. Several days later, after hearing loud arguing and strange sounds coming from the house, she decided to contact authorities.

"I heard a lot of fighting and thought probably something was going on over there," Anderson said.

Anderson said she also had become friends with the teen's older stepbrother, who gave her assorted reasons about the teen's disappearance.

"At first he told us he had moved," she said. "Then he said he was grounded, pretty much on house arrest."

The stepbrother also said the boy had gotten into the trash and eaten raw meat, and that he had behavioral problems, Anderson said.

She said she has received messages from the teen's biological family, thanking her for making the call and saying the abuse had been going on for years.