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Asperger’s Teen Forced to Live in Dark Basement

Asperger’s Teen Forced to Live in Dark Basement
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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?

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8:23AM PDT on May 22, 2013

Well, as of Saturday and the release of DSM-V, I guess I have to say I have a six year old "on the spectrum", and this story has me in tears. That poor boy! His treatment reminds me of a book titled "A Child Called It," especially with the mother's response. Sixteen is a little old for a childhood, per say, but I really hope this boy can have a happy life from now on. Someone should be investigating the mental health of his mother and stepfather; treating anyone like that isn't psychologically healthy.

9:05AM PST on Feb 15, 2013

"One has to wonder, how such abuse of a child, and one with disabilities, could go on for so long?" I wonder just that. Hope poor child can recover from this torment and culprits pay!

11:12AM PST on Jan 28, 2013


5:18AM PST on Jan 28, 2013

They deserve their basic right of open air

6:32PM PST on Jan 15, 2013

How did this manage to go on so long? How long had the neighbors seemed to think it none of their business? What about other family members? Egads!
It is known that an orphanage or foster care may also have secret how and when does an individual who observes the abuse of a child determine whether to stand by silently and when to take a chance on things not being worse somewhere else?
Who knows what amount of damage was done and what amount of recovery may be possible for Charlie, but at least he is in a place where the other people he lives with care about and for him!!

8:19AM PST on Jan 12, 2013


12:04PM PST on Dec 16, 2012

This is really sad that a mother could allow something like that to happen to her own son. It's also sad that the stepfather could really believe that "disciplining" his stepson would "cure" him of his disease.

4:26PM PST on Dec 13, 2012

Two years and $6000 doesn't replace and compensate for a lost childhood and the trauma.
I hope his life is beautiful and he can make the past the past.

4:53PM PST on Dec 8, 2012

This boy told his father about it and until there was physical evidence of the abuse there was nothing he could do although he had tried for years.They worse part about this story is that these monster still have a child in their house.

4:34AM PST on Dec 7, 2012


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