DETROIT (AP) — The father and stepmother of a 13-year-old boy were charged Friday with torture and child abuse in an investigation that began last summer when he was discovered among boxes in his father's basement after a highly publicized 11-day search by Detroit police.
Charlie Bothuell IV and Monique Dillard-Bothuell appeared in court by video from jail. Not-guilty pleas were entered by a magistrate, and bond was set at $500,000 each.
Charlie Bothuell V was 12 last June when police found him, describing him as "very thin, with marks on his upper body," the Wayne County prosecutor's office said.
"It is alleged that the parents systematically physically abused the child, forced him to live in the basement and not socialize with others, intentionally deprived him of food and forced him to engage in an extreme and unreasonable exercise regimen," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
No defense attorneys were present in court. Mark Magidson, a lawyer who has represented the couple in the past, said the charges are "ludicrous."
"The fact that it took them this long to bring these charges shows that there's really a wanting of evidence and it's probably more politically motivated than anything else," he told the Detroit Free Press.
The father and stepmother have denied any abuse, although the elder Bothuell told state investigators last year that he had struck his son with a PVC pipe. His parental rights to Charlie were recently terminated, and two other children are in foster care, according to the attorney general's office.
"We are thankful that the victim was found alive," prosecutor Kym Worthy said.
Bothuell and Dillard-Bothuell acknowledged the charges during the brief court hearing and the possible life sentence if convicted of torture. They smiled when Magistrate Laura Echartea apologized for repeatedly mispronouncing their last name.
Charlie's parents reported him missing last June and authorities hunted for the boy for 11 days. His father appeared stunned on live TV when told that the boy had been found in his basement.
"I'm shocked. I looked. The Detroit police looked. The FBI looked," he said at the time. "To imply that I knew my son was in the basement is absurd."
But the discovery put him and his wife under scrutiny.
In a July court filing, the Department of Human Services said Charlie told caseworkers that his stepmother had ordered him to hide in the basement because she believed he had not completed one of his twice-a-day workouts: 100 pushups, 200 situps, 100 jumping jacks, 25 arm curls with a 25-pound weight and thousands of revolutions on an elliptical machine.
Charlie said his stepmom told him, "Shut up, stay quiet and don't say anything no matter what you hear!"
He said she told him at times, "I know where the sharp knives are. ... I can make you disappear."
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