An Alabama couple is in jail after allegedly keeping their adopted teenage son locked up in their basement, where he became malnourished and "gravely ill."
Police say the 14-year-old boy weighed only 55 pounds when his adoptive parents finally brought him to the hospital for treatment, according to AL.com. The hospital staff has listed his condition as critical.
"It's the worst case of neglect that I have ever seen," Helena Police Chief Pete Folmar said.
Richard Kelly, 56, and Cynthia Kelly, 47, were charged Nov. 14 with aggravated child abuse and are both being held on $1 million bonds. They face anywhere between two and 20 years in prison if found guilty.
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"I am bound to remind everyone that they remain innocent until proven guilty,'' said Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee. "But this office will prosecute vigorously and to fullest extent the law will allow."
Doctors responsible for treating the boy, who Chief Folmar described as "challenged in some way," said he suffers from severe malnourishment, dehydration, acute respiratory distress, shock, hypothermia, hypothyroidism and is in danger of dying.
"The child remains gravely ill at this time and faces a long, difficult recovery and uncertain prognosis," Folmar said.
While police have not released details about the home in which the child was kept, arrest warrants reveal that he was "subjected to forced isolation for extended periods of time" and denied food and medical care. He has not yet been interviewed by investigators.
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"We have not talked to him," Folmar said. "I just don't want to subject him to anything at this point in time. There's a time and place appropriate for everything and I don't think the time and place has been appropriate."
The Kellys have lived in the area for 20 years. They have a 19-year-old adopted daughter who does not appear to have been maltreated. There was also a 21-year-old man, described as an acquaintance, living in the house. Neither of them have been charged with any crimes.
Neighbors expressed horror over the investigation.
"I'm still in shock," Shyler Clayton said. "You don't think of this happening to somebody living next door to you."
While the Kellys were reportedly quiet and withdrawn, never socializing with other residents of the neighborhood, the 21-year-old man who lived with them was friendly and sociable. The 19-year-old daughter was almost never seen, and the 14-year-old was seen only occasionally.
"He was so small, I thought he was about 8 or 10. It took all he had to push the lawnmower," neighbor Troy Clayton said, adding, "You might see him out there, but then you wouldn't see him again for a while."
To the question of why the young adults living in the house have not been charged, Chief Folmar cited a statute unique to the state of Alabama.
"I won't get in to what they did or did not know, or what they may or may not have told us," he explained. "This particular statute in the state of Alabama requires that one of the elements of the crime is that the person who is believed to have committed the crime be a responsible person as defined by Alabama law. Which means they are the person responsible for the care of the child."
"Keep this young man in your thoughts and prayers," Folmar added. "We'll move forward with our investigation and do the very best we can for him."