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Parents charged in the case of teen found handcuffed in basement

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at 10:58 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at 11:21 p.m.

Without money to buy prescription medicine, a Northland couple figured the only option for controlling their 17-year-old bipolar son was to handcuff him to a support beam in their Kansas City, North townhouse.

That’s the reasoning that the teen’s father and stepmother provided police for restraining the teen, according to court papers filed Tuesday in Clay County.

Clay County prosecutors charged David L. Martin Sr., 42, and Pamela S. Martin, 41, with felonious restraint and child abuse Tuesday, eight days after police found the teen shackled and lying in a fetal position on blankets on the family’s concrete basement floor.

The couple’s bond was set at $50,000. No court appearance had been scheduled Tuesday.

Crystal Anderson, the neighbor who alerted authorities about the boy, said Tuesday she was pleased with her decision.

“I am just sad that I didn’t call sooner,” Anderson said. “That is the only thing that I regret.”

According to court records:

When police found the victim, he had sores and abrasions on both wrists; his clothes were dirty; and his face looked sunken on both cheeks. Though he once weighed 130, he had dropped to 103 pounds.

David Martin told police he previously had locked his son in his bedroom but resorted to handcuffs because the boy had escaped, according to the court records. He said that he had used the handcuffs for three weeks, to restrain the teen while was he out of the home, and that he was the only person who handcuffed and released the teen.

Martin also told police that his son was bipolar, had attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and was “out of control,” the court records said. The parents had not been able to buy his prescribed medication and had “run out of solutions to help him.” Martin said his son had dug through trash and assaulted his stepmother on occasion.

Pamela Martin told police that the teen would eat large quantities of food if left unsupervised. They began using the handcuffs in December, she said. They handcuffed him to a bed at first and later to the basement support pole.

The teen was allowed upstairs to eat dinner with the family, Pamela Martin said, according to the court records. Otherwise, he was kept handcuffed downstairs except when released to eat meals in the basement.

When she fed him a couple of times in December while her husband worked, the teen verbally abused her and tried to kick her, she told police.

Pamela Martin also told police that the teen had been denied use of a restroom for at least 10 hours at a time for approximately six weeks.

“Martin said she was frightened of the victim and had no other choice,” the court records said.

Anderson said she called police about the boy’s frail condition last week. She had seen him chained to the outside of a basement door.

Officers went to the residence in the 4000 block of North Wheeling Avenue and released the teen, who told them that he had been restrained for several months. The teen was “very thin” and had a look of desperation in his eyes, police said.

His father withdrew him from his Northland high school, where he was a sophomore, on Sept. 27, reportedly to home-school him. District officials declined to speak about the teen Tuesday.

The teen told police his father typically woke him at 4 a.m., allowed him to use the bathroom and fed him a packet of instant oatmeal. The father would lock him back up until he got home from work about 2:30 p.m. The teen would be allowed another bathroom break and served one packet of ramen noodles before being handcuffed again.

The teen was allowed to shower once every four weeks, according to court records.

In the evenings, his father would bring him two bologna sandwiches with a cup of water before locking him up for the night, the youth told police.

When officers spoke to the boy’s father and stepmother, they allegedly said they restrained the teen for their safety and his.

Neighbors described the teen as childlike and reported that last spring and summer they had seen him outside in all types of weather.

Last week, a Clay County judge agreed to allow the teen to remain with a foster family until a decision is made on where he may be placed.

Anderson said she and the teen exchange messages almost daily on Facebook. In one of those messages, the teen thanked Anderson for saving his life, she said.

“He said he is doing a lot better and he was a lot happier with the people he has been placed with,” Anderson said. The teen has resumed attending classes, albeit at a different high school, she said.

“He said he is really excited about seeing his friends again,” Anderson said. “He said he is going to try to do football.”

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com

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