Authorities say it was only after a 14-year-old boy's mother took a trip from their northern Colorado home that they discovered he had allegedly been kept locked in a filthy room in a mice-infested trailer for most of three years.
Police acknowledged Friday that they previously had visited the home but saw no prior signs of abuse.
The boy, described by his mother as "developmentally delayed," was found hiding under a neighbor's porch Sept. 27 in Erie, Colo., after his mother and her boyfriend left for New York.
Authorities said that after she returned, she allegedly told officers that a lock found on the plywood door to the boy's room was installed because he had once run away. Police say she admitted to locking him up when she got upset with him or when he was in trouble.
According to an arrest affidavit, the boy told police that his mother, Amanda Joliff, her boyfriend, Richard Smith, and the boy's sister had kept him locked in the room under Joliff's orders since early 2008. He said he was allowed out to take care of the family's ducks, to clean and to eat, but said he usually only ate about four times a week.
Joliff, 36, and Smith, 31, have been jailed on charges of false imprisonment, child abuse and neglect. A public defender assigned to represent Joliff declined to comment because he hadn't reviewed the case yet. It wasn't clear yet who was representing Smith.
The allegations were first reported by the Greeley Tribune.
Police had previously been called to the home in February 2007 after the family's dog bit a boy.
Lt. Lee Mathis said an officer responded and shot the dog after it cornered the officer in an alley. The boy who was bit was under 10 at the time, but Mathis said he couldn't discuss whether it was the same boy who was allegedly locked in his room because of the pending abuse case.
Mathis also said a boy who lived at the home showed up at a bar to listen to country western music in August 2010 and officers took him home. A year later, police were called to the home because neighbors had complained about unlicensed dogs.
Mathis said police never entered the home during those interactions and didn't notice anything suspicious.
"If we had any indication of what was going on, we would have taken action," he said.
A police officer who did enter the home after the boy showed up at the neighbor's said the boy's room was filled with junk and had a soiled mattress with no sheets. The only window was boarded up and there appeared to be a leak in the ceiling.
The officer also noticed droppings from mice that had eaten through boxes of pasta, which the boy said was his main source of sustenance. The officer said there were two dogs, six birds including two ducks, and four toads living inside. The home reeked of animal urine and feces, and another dog lived outside.
While Joliff and Smith were in New York, the neighbor who discovered the boy told police that the boy and his sister remained at their home with the boy's father _ whom authorities noted wasn't the boy's biological father.
The boy told police that his father and sister decided to move out of the trailer Sept. 27 but told him he would have to wait another day to leave.
The boy said they gave him $5 to find a place to stay and he crawled underneath a neighbor's porch to sleep, too afraid to ask for help.