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Police: Father, Stepmother Kept 12-Year-Old Locked Up In Room For About 2 Months

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NEWARK, Del. (CBS) – A father and stepmother were arrested and charged with felony abuse of a 12-year-old in New Castle County.

Around 8:13 p.m. Tuesday night police responded to a tip of child abuse made by a neighbor after the 12-year-old boy escaped his own home, located on the 100 block of Brookside Boulevard in Newark, Del., police say.

That neighbor, Melissa Walsh, says the boy arrived at her doorstep Tuesday night, in desperate need of help, asking if her stepson was home.

“He was barefoot, no shoes, no socks, bruises all over his face. He was so thin, just emaciated,” Walsh said. “He didn’t ask for anything. I tried to offer him some warm apple cider to warm him up, but he said, ‘No, no thank you. I’m okay.’ And I said, ‘Well I’m going to make you some anyway because you look cold.’ And then he ate, and ate for four hours.”

During the investigation, police say they learned that the child had been locked in his room since September, the door handle of his room had been installed backwards, the window had been screwed shut and the child was only allowed to leave the room occasionally to use the bathroom.

Detectives say they also learned the child was malnourished due to restricted food intake.

According to police, the boy first ran to his school, but it was closed. So he went to Walsh’s house. She says later that night, the child’s aunt went looking for him, but Walsh told her he wasn’t at her home and then called police. It was then the boy told her his story.

“He came clean with everything. He said, ‘Please, don’t let me go back there,'” said Walsh.

Allegedly, this stemmed from behavioral issues the child was having.

On Wednesday, the parents of the child Robert Hohn, 41, and his wife Shannon Watterson, 39, were taken into custody without incident.

Hohn and Watterson have been charged with first degree child abuse, recklessly/intentionally causing serious physical injury to a child through abuse/neglect, and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

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