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The "hidden compartment" where Georgia police found a missing 13-year-old boy last week was an attic space connected to a garage by a crawl-through in a linen closet, officials said Monday.
"It was an area where no person should be living. No one should have been in that area," Clayton County Police Chief Gregory Porter said at a press conference where as many questions about the case were raised as answered.
Authorities have said the boy, whose name has not been released, was taken by his father, Gregory Jean Sr., in 2010 and that his mother had not seen him in four years. They provided no new details about how the child managed to connect with his mother by cellphone and tell her that he was being physically abused. She called 911 on Friday night, bringing cops to the house — where the boy's father and stepmother and her three children denied knowing or holding him.
After an initial search of the garage turned up empty, the boy was able to relay more details about his crude hiding place by phone and police found an "access panel" behind a shelf in the closet that led to an area filled with beams and insulation where the child was holed up.
"The victim had signs of physical assault and was very emotionally distraught," Porter said. The police supervisor who found him said that after the boy calmed down, he was grateful.
"That's exactly what he said: 'Thank you,'" Officer Joanne Southerland said. "He was absolutely afraid of what was happening."
Police said the child had been in the attic area "temporarily" and actually shared a bedroom with one of the other juveniles in the home. There is no indication he attended school, and neighbors have said they often saw him doing yard work.
It is unclear if his biological mother, who lived in Florida when the child went missing, ever reported him missing to authorities.
"She indicated to us that she’s been trying to reunite with her son for quite some time," Porter said. "She stated that the kid was somewhere in the state of Georgia but she did not have a specific location.
"We did receive some information that pretty much suggests the child did not want to be there and was being physically abused and he wanted to leave that situation and reunite with his mother," the chief said.
Jean, his wife Samantha Davis, and the other teens were all charged with false imprisonment and cruelty to children. Police said Davis was on probation after a previous child-cruelty conviction.