Shocked, sad, speechless, sickened: none of these words quite describes how I felt on reading about a Minnesota couple who made their 15-year-old son who has Asperger’s Syndrome live under constant video surveillance in a basement room with no lights and foam over the windows. The teenager was only allowed out when he was doing “military-style” exercises, performing chores or using the restroom.
The boy’s stepfather and mother, Gregory and Angela Danner, have been arrested and face one count each of malicious punishment of a child and neglect of a child. They could each be jailed for up to two years and charged with fines of up to $6,000.
Life in the Basement with One Peanut Butter Sandwich
As Minnesota Fox affiliate KMSP-TV reports, on April 2, the boy told police that not only the lights but also his bed had been taken from his room as a punishment and a video camera installed to watch his every move. An investigation of the Danners’ house confirmed what the boy said.
The Danners took the foam off the windows and put the light back into the boy’s room. But, as he told police in ongoing interviews in April and May, he still did not have a bed; his meals consisted of a peanut butter sandwich that his sister brought to him; he was rarely allowed to shower; he was told that his biological father had to provide detergent for him to wash his clothes in the sink or bathtub.
When social service workers spoke to the boy in early May, he told them the Danners were planning for him to run three miles a day as “therapy.” He was also often forced to do 1,500 to 2,000 pushups each day as well as a “wall chair” exercise for 20 minutes to an hour and miles-long runs in the cold. According to criminal charges filed, he had been made to do all this since he was 12 or 13. His stepfather had at one time spanked him 40-50 times, “once for each swear word found in some lyrics he had written down.”
Noting that he felt “very angry” with Gregory Danner due to what he was subjected to, the boy said that when he told this to his mother, she “threatened not to speak to him again if he said something bad about the family.”
“He gets to have a good childhood now”
The boy, who has turned 16 years old, is living with his biological father, David Nalls. Nalls now has custody of him and tells KMSP-TV that “He gets to have a good childhood now. He’s not in a dark room, he can shower when he wants, he has clean clothes — not just a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of water.” His son, who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed only 120 pounds when he came to live with him.
“This is a 15-year-old boy, not a Marine recruit being put through that type of discipline on a daily basis. That is an unusual circumstance that crossed the boundary of what is appropriate under law,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.
Neighbors recounted that the Danners had seemed “unusual,” with Gregory Danner “working in the backyard while wearing only a pink thong” and yelling at the boy while making him exercise.
One has to wonder, how such abuse of a child, and one with disabilities, could go on for so long?
Photo by madc0w
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