It was last Tuesday at the downtown bus station that security guard Joe Gonzalez first noticed Mitch Comer, 18, looking like a lost and scared 12-year-old. Alarmed by the teen's frail appearance and the story he told, Gonzalez, a retired police sergeant, notified the LAPD.
"The story we got was that the stepfather took the kid to the bus depot, said 'Here's $200, here's a list of the homeless shelters in Los Angeles, you're a man now and don't come back,'" said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith.
The teen told police he had been held captive by his parents, Paul and Sheila Comer, for four years after being taken out of school in the 8th grade. The Comers are now in custody after being arrested at their home in Dallas, an upscale Georgia suburb. They're facing child abuse and false imprisonment charges, and their two younger daughters were removed from the home.
"The sisters that were inside the house apparently didn't even know what color hair this kid had because they hadn't seen him in a couple years because he'd been locked in that bedroom for several years," said Smith.
"He weighed 97 pounds, he's 5 foot 3. The LAPD officer said that his skin was translucent, that he was obviously malnourished," said Georgia's Paulding County District Attorney Dick Donovan.
Donovan says the 18-year-old told police that the stepfather, Paul Comer, drove the teen to a bus stop in Mississippi on his 18th birthday. The teen spent a day at Exodus Recovery Center in L.A. and nearly a week in a local group home before Georgia authorities flew him back home.
Mitch Comer didn't know what city he had come from and didn't know his own address. His parents were tracked down through their in-home business.