Police: Tortured Teen Lived in Filth

Chained, bruised boy is now back in Sacramento

A terrified teenage boy who showed up at a Tracy gym begging for help had earlier been chained in a home and lived in filthy conditions as a captive.

Meanwhile, three people accused of playing a role in the alleged torture and kidnapping of the 17-year-old remained in custody and were expected to be arraigned in Stockton on Thursday.

"He was dirty. He was bloody," Tracy police spokesman Matt Robinson said Wednesday as he described the boy's ordeal, which by one account may have lasted nearly a year.

The woman who was first thought to be the boy's aunt is now being called only a family friend and not a blood relative.

The boy limped into a local gym chained, terrified and begging managers to hide him earlier this week.

Caren Ramirez, 43, is the third suspect arrested in the alleged assault and kidnapping of the teen. She was taken into custody Tuesday night after police received a tip she was in the San Francisco suburb of Berkeley. Tracy is about 60 miles east of San Francisco.

To read the police complain against the Ramirez, click here.

Police had been looking for Ramirez after they arrested Kelly Layne Lau, 30, and her husband Michael Schumacher, 34, earlier Tuesday. Lau and Schumacher were in jail in lieu of bail set at nearly $1.2 million each. They were booked for suspicion of torture, kidnapping and child abuse.

Ramirez had become the teen's guardian after child-welfare officials took him from his abusive father three or four years ago, police said. After Ramirez was arrested for allegedly abusing the boy, he was placed in another foster home, which he fled in late 2007, police said.

Since then, the boy's whereabouts hadn't been known until around 4 p.m. Monday, when he entered the fitness center.

Police said Wednesday there had been conflicting reports about how the boy ended up at the gym. First they said they believed the boy had been chained to a car seat but picked up a dropped key, unlocked himself and fled when the car stopped. Robinson said authorities now believe the boy hopped over a fence to get away.

The boy came into the In-Shape Sports Club wearing only boxer briefs and covered in what appeared to be soot, gym manager Chuck Ellis said.

Ellis said the teen was scared someone was going to come after him and asked to be hidden.

"He said, 'Don't let them get me, don't let them get me,"' Ellis said. "He was totally terrified."

The boy said he had been held captive for nearly a year, said Ellis, adding that he looked as if he was only 10 to 12 years old.

Investigators were trying to figure out the connection between the couple and Ramirez, who authorities believe occasionally visited their home.

Meanwhile, Lau and Schumacher's four young children, two of whom were home when police arrived, were taken into protective custody, authorities said.

According to neighbors, the couple seemed to lead lives that revolved around their kids. On her MySpace Web page, Lau describes herself as a stay-at-home mom, Girl Scout troop leader and says her husband "is my best friend and a wonderful father." She posted many photos of her family, friends and pets.

Jennifer Foster, 33, said she and Lau became acquaintances through their children, who were neighborhood playmates. Foster said she first noticed an older boy with the family about a year ago.

"She told me that he was a nephew that was staying with them because he was having problems at home," Foster said. The boy was outside frequently, and his appearance never suggested anything unusual was happening behind closed doors, though the last time she saw him was May, she said.

Another neighbor said that more recently, the boy looked unwell.

"The last time I seen him, maybe two weeks ago, we were both taking our cans in from garbage days and he was really skinny and pale," Rachel Portillo said.


Copyright AP - Associated Press
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