‘Missing’ boy found in basement tells authorities of grueling forced exercise
WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. — Twice each day, 12-year-old Charlie Bothuell V says in court documents, he was forced to do 100 push-ups, 200 sit-ups and 100 jumping jacks.
He told child welfare investigators in Michigan that he’d have to curl a 25-pound weight on each arm and do 5,000 revolutions on an exercise machine, and if he didn’t finish in less than an hour, he’d have to do the routine again, according a petition filed in Wayne County court in Michigan this week.
The Detroit boy said that he feared being “in trouble again” for not completing his work-out routine. Sometimes he couldn’t finish because he was in too much pain, he said.
Charlie made national news in June when his father Charlie Bothuell IV said his son went missing for 11 days, prompting a search that involved the FBI and that ended bizarrely when the child turned up barricaded in the father’s basement.
The father was talking live on air with HLN’s Nancy Grace when he learned that state police had discovered his son, appearing shocked when Grace told him that she’d just received breaking news about it.
On her show, the elder Bothuell became visibly upset. He started breathing hard and clutching at his chest, and told Grace that he had no idea how his son could have been in the basement.
“I checked my basement. The FBI checked my basement. The police checked my basement,” he said on air. “My wife checked my basement. I’ve been down there several times. We’ve all been checking.”
Bothuell added that his home has been searched repeatedly by law enforcement trying to find his son. Police and the FBI also have said they searched several times and didn’t see the boy and now indicate he might have moved during the 11 days — they won’t say yet specifically what their investigation revealed.
‘Never seen anything quite like this’
At the time, Detroit Police Chief James Craig reacted to the discovery of the boy with his own disbelief.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Craig told CNN affiliate WXYZ-TV. “We found him barricaded in the basement, behind boxes and a large … drum. There’s no way he could have erected this makeshift area of concealment.”
This week, Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody reiterated how surprised police were that the boy turned up in the basement. He told CNN, “It’s possible” that investigators “didn’t see” the boy while they searched the home from attic to basement.
The department is reviewing its procedures, he added.
A petition, signed Monday, and filed in Wayne County juvenile court describes allegations of abuse that the boy says he endured from his father and stepmother, Monique Arnel Dillard-Bothuell.
Neither have been charged; in fact, no one has been charged with anything in the case.
Blood found on PVC pipe
Wayne County child protective services opened an investigation of the family June 23 as FBI agents were looking into the boy’s disappearance.
Petitions seeking state custody of Charlie and his younger siblings were filed this week. They say that on June 23, the father “disclosed physically disciplining Charlie V with a PVC pipe. An FBI search of the home produced the PVC pipe with which Charlie V was disciplined. It was disclosed that blood was found on the pipe.”
On June 25, the documents say, the boy was found in the basement of the Bothuell home. He was taken to a hospital and a doctor examined him, finding a “half circular scar” on the 12-year-old’s chest.
The boy said that scar was a “result of his father driving a PVC pipe into his chest.” The child was “also observed to have old scars on his buttocks from being hit with the pipe,” the document states.
Boy says he heard authorities searching
Representatives from the state’s protective services agency witnessed two forensic interviews of the boy, according to the petitions, including an FBI interview on July 1. Charlie V made numerous allegations, saying that he was disciplined with a PVC pipe to the point that he was too sore to walk or sit and that he’d been punched by his stepmother who, he said, told him, “I can make you disappear.”
The boy said that the stepmother accused him of lying about whether he’d finished his workout, and put him in the basement on June 14.
The boy told interviewers that he showered and put on his pajamas for the evening before entering the kitchen where his stepmother was “very upset regarding the workout,” the petition states.
“Charlie V reported Mrs. Dillard-Bothuell’s voice was angry. Charlie V felt as if he did not have a choice, so he did as he was told,” it continues. “Charlie V followed Mrs. Dillard-Bothuell to the basement. She then led Charlie V to the back of the basement” and gestured to an area along a wall. The boy said that she told him, “There, back there, go!”
The petition states the boy said he climbed over a drum and that she added boxes to conceal him, and then went upstairs, called his father and said that the boy was missing, that she’d looked “everywhere” for him. Police said it was a 55-gallon drum, clarifying the petition’s description as a “5-gallon” drum.
When the stepmother came down to the basement, the petition says, she would approach the area where the boy was and say, “Shut up, stay quiet and don’t say anything no matter what you hear!”
“Charlie V reported Mrs. Dillard-Bothuell never brought him food, or anything to drink the entire time he was in the basement,” the petition states. When the house fell silent, he would run upstairs to grab food.
The boy told interviewers that he heard authorities come to the house while he was in the basement.
The Wayne County prosecutor’s office will decide whether criminal charges will be filed but had no public statement Thursday.
A hearing was held in the case Thursday but state authorities would not discuss it, citing their regulations in cases involving children. Developments included a psychological evaluation being ordered for the 12-year-old to determine whether his father can have visitation rights, and discussions of petitions on termination of parental rights.
Meanwhile, police told CNN that they have no reasons to disbelieve Charlie’s claims. Police Sgt. Woody added that full results of the investigation have yet to be released.
Efforts to reach Mark Magidson, an attorney for the boy’s father and stepmother, were not immediately successful Thursday afternoon.
And police were not commenting on the boy’s whereabouts beyond telling CNN that he is living with a relative for the time being.
Another hearing is scheduled for July 17.