Family Lived in House While Starving Teen Ate Twigs and Grass in the Barn, Prosecutor Says
LINCOLN COUNTY, OK – July 20, 2018
Police and DHS discovered a 15-year-old boy severely malnourished with broken bones and other signs of abuse, living in a barn in rural Lincoln County, Oklahoma.
The boy’s father, stepmother and two adult siblings were arrested and the teen was taken to the hospital in serious condition, the Shawnee News-Star reported.
Neighbors find the allegations hard to believe. They seemed like normal family.
Investigators believe that the boy survived only because of the actions of a concerned bystander who felt something was off.
“They saw the victim outside in the field and felt like something was wrong or suspicion, and they called (child support services), who then called our office for some investigators to assist them,” Lincoln County First Assistant District Attorney Adam Panter said.
The investigators went to the property and made contact with the teen, after which Panter said they were “immediately aware he was suffering pretty terribly from malnourishment and physical abuse.”
Panter said the teen was living in the barn among farm animals and was within a week of starving to death when he was taken to the hospital by officials.
The 15-year-old weighed only 80 pounds, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by the Shawnee News-Star, and had reportedly been listed as home-schooled for the previous two years.
The neighbors had seen the boy before, but they didn't even think he was 15. He was scrawny, short and looked to be around 8 years old. Sometimes, he appeared with the wounds and abrasions.
Investigators said the teen told them the head wound was from his dad. And, he never received medical attention.
"At one point, his father had pulled maggots out of him and superglue it shut, telling him that doctors were too expensive to take him to," Panter said.
Panter said the teen told police more.
"He been shot by his dad with a shotgun with birdshot, and x-rays revealed he did have shotgun pellets still lodged in his leg," Panter said.
Panter said the parents, step brothers and a 4-year-old girl lived in the home and appeared healthy and fed. He went on to say the animals were also well taken care of.
"He had to forge for his own food; he wasn't allowed food from inside the house," Panter said.
The victim was forced to eat twigs and grass and sleep on an old, ratty couch. He had one book in the barn as his only means of entertainment.
"The doctors at O.U. Children's Hospital, after treating him and testing him and evaluating him, determined that, had he not been found, he would have been dead of starvation within a week," Panter said.
The boy’s brothers were arrested and taken to the Pottawatomie County jail on child neglect complaints. The boy’s father and stepmother were arrested on the same complaint and taken to the Lincoln County jail. The father also faces a complaint of child abuse by injury, according to the Oklahoman.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Human Services did not comment to the Oklahoman on the case, citing “case statutes”.
No formal charges have yet been filed, Panter said, though he added that he expected them to be finalized soon. Panter said a 4-year-old child was taken into protective custody but did not appear to be the target of any abuse.