Police: Stepdad confined teen for years, sent him away on bus
Paul Comer and Sheila M. Comer, both of Dallas, Georgia, have been charged with cruelty to children.
September 21st, 2012
06:56 PM ET

Police: Stepdad confined teen for years, sent him away on bus

A gaunt 18-year-old Georgia man told California police his stepfather had banished him and sent him on a cross-country bus ride after the stepfather had confined him to a room for four years, authorities said.

The confinement allegedly was so thorough, Mitch Comer's two younger sisters - living in the same home - hadn't seen the teen for the last two years, and he says he hadn't been outdoors in at least that amount of time, Paulding County (Georgia) Sheriff's Cpl. Ashley Henson said.

The teen's stepfather and mother were arrested in Dallas, Georgia, last week after a retired Los Angeles police officer found the teen wandering an L.A. bus station, weighing under 100 pounds at just over 5 feet tall, and looking like he was 12 or 13, the L.A. Police Department said.

Paul M. Comer, 48, and the teen's mother, Sheila M. Comer, 39, both of Dallas, Georgia, were charged last week with cruelty to children relating to alleged abuse during Mitch Comer's minor years, Henson said. Both are being held without opportunity for bail, pending an October 4 hearing.

"The information we have is the neighbors didn't even know there was a boy living in the home," Paulding County District Attorney Dick Donovan told "CNN Newsroom" on Friday.

The investigation started on September 11 when retired LAPD Sgt. Joe Gonzales, working security at an L.A. Greyhound bus station, called police after mistaking Mitch Comer for a child wandering the station alone, police said.

The teen told officers that Paul Comer had kicked him out of his Georgia home because he had just turned 18. Comer drove him to a Jackson, Mississippi, bus station, gave him $200 and information on Los Angeles homeless shelters that he gleaned from the Internet, put him on a bus and told him never to return, authorities said.

The teen also told investigators he was abused at home for the last four years, saying that after Comer removed him from school in the eighth grade, he was confined to a room and given small amounts of food daily.

He also said he was forced to "assume a grueling disciplinary position every day for eight hours, with the top of his head against a wall, his fingers interlaced behind his head and his feet raised off the ground," the L.A. Police Department said.

"He saw the mom and the (stepfather), but he hadn't seen the sisters for two years," Henson said.

Mitch Comer told investigators he lived mostly in Georgia, though the family moved to Arizona and perhaps other places before returning.

After Los Angeles police contacted Paulding County authorities, Paul and Sheila Comer were arrested, and the teen's sisters – ages 13 and 11 – were put into protective custody, Henson said.

One of Donovan's investigators flew to Los Angeles and escorted the teen back to Georgia, where a family volunteered to take him in "until we can get things moving or find a better placement," Donovan said.

"According to my investigator whom I sent to L.A. to pick him up and take him home, he is a very sweet, very polite young man who loves to read, and who said that his greatest desire is to just live a normal life," Donovan told "CNN Newsroom."

Henson said the charges against Paul and Sheila Comer relate only to the 18-year-old. Investigators have yet to speak to the girls in-depth, Henson said.

Sheila Comer's attorney, Renee Rockwell of Atlanta, said Friday that her client will plead not guilty. She said that she couldn't say a lot about the case yet.

"The investigation is just starting. I'm sure there's a lot that is going to come out sooner or later, just a lot of facts that have yet to be disclosed to the public," Rockwell said Friday.

Paul and Sheila Comer have not had any contact with each other since the arrests, Rockwell said.

A call to the office of Paul Comer's attorney, W. Scott Smith of Atlanta, wasn't immediately returned Friday.

The FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are among the agencies investigating the case, Henson said.

Henson said his department wants to give "all the credit to retired Sgt. Gonzales" and the Los Angeles Police Department for flagging the case.

"Without (Gonzales') watchful eye and his experience, (Mitch Comer) might never have been found, and he might not have survived," Henson said.

- CNN's Brooke Baldwin contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Crime • Georgia
soundoff (484 Responses)
  1. puckles

    Heart breaking!

    September 22, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. Gwen

    What happened to me for 2 years was almost as severe. Both of them are dead now. Life is hard. I think of dying often. In spite of that, there are nice people in my life now. I can't tell them what I am thinking.

    September 22, 2012 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Renee

      Sorry to hear that. Prayer helps. Just pray hard for peace and happiness from this point forward. Ask God to come into your heart and heal your spirit, mind, body and soul. Ask others to pray with you and for you. Live positive and think positive and good things will come to you. Sometimes we have to go through something that we don't understand that makes us stronger and wiser for a better life ahead. Life will get better and better for you. Prayer and positive energy is powerful. Cleanse your body, free your mind. Maybe burn some sage incense to get negative energy away. Meditation, reading and relaxing music is good as well; relieves stress. Healing oils are good too, and you just wait on your blessing. Good things will come to you.

      September 22, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • DebS

      Gwen, I strongly urge you to find a therapist to talk to. Talking to family, friends, pastors, and people you know from church is not the best option as they are too close emotionally to the situation. Find a professional. They can help you work through your pain as well as teach you healthy life skills that the majority of us never learned growing up.

      It took me a couple tries but I finally found a therapist who gave me a new lease on life.

      September 22, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Renee – if prayer helped, don't you think the abuse would've never occurred in the first place? No doubt Gwen and others (e.g. Philip, another poster) prayed constantly for intervention and cessation. Where was God during Gwen's 2 torturous years and this boy's 4 horrific years? Deb S is right – therapy should help. Victims need to work through it rather than ask a deity – who apparently allowed the abuse and neglect to happen in the first place – to heal your mind, heart, and soul.

      September 22, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      There is a lot of comfort to be found from prayer, Amy. Without practicing prayer & forgiveness, I would be in jail today for killing my abuser.
      Instead, I have a good life free from the poison of bitterness. Prayer & forgiveness does not mean allowing the abuse to continue. It can help give people the courage to challenge & defeat the abuser without allowing hatred to destroy the person that they were meant to be. Hatred is like acid. It harms the vessel it is contained in as much(if not more) as the object it is poured out upon.
      I can understand if you feel prayer is not for you, but putting someone else down for offering something that really might help others to cope is petty. Is the acid eating you?


      September 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rhondajo3

    We hear of this plight of children over and over again! How many more children are out there right now locked in a basement or closet? How can we find them?

    September 22, 2012 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • j-max

      I've been spying on my neighbors for some time now. Peaking in their windows and such. All I can say with certainty is that there are no children in their basements or closets... but I am moving soon. I'll keep you posted.

      September 22, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. j-max

    Maybe the boy is lying.

    September 22, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
    • h

      wow i wish i was your neighbor i would have blown yoru head of with my double gauge for peaking in my fing window people have a right to privacy you perv

      September 22, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • JustMe

      He's 18, under 100 lbs and just over 5'. Pretty damn small for a healthy, normal 18 year old male. His own sisters living in the same house haven't seen him in 2 years. The neighbors never knew he was there. And you think he's lying???

      September 22, 2012 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

    According to the picture, apparently Mick Jagger has been arrested.

    September 22, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. Evelyn Connaway

    The Lord should never allow some people to have children if he really knows what is in everyones heart. Make me doubt many religious teachings.

    September 22, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. Morgan

    It's hard for people who don't come from abusive homes to understand what it's like to be in these shoes. They can't imagine being forced to balance an open phone book across their outstretched arms for six hours. They can't fathom being beaten with a log of firewood on Christmas eve because they didn't make the bed right. To them, these sick indignities are things from novels, from horror stories – or from news articles like this one. But some of us know. And we don't envy Mitch the years ahead.

    September 22, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
    • DebS

      Morgan, sounds like you've been abused. If so, I am very sorry. I wish you the best and hope you've been able to find a good therapist who can help you work through all your pain.

      September 22, 2012 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • BD

      Some of us do know. And no, we don't envy Mitch the years ahead.

      September 22, 2012 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      There is hope though. A good therapist can help. Prayer, meditation, or inner reflection can help. What really can help is the support of other victims who have taken their lives back successfully from their abusers. People like me can tell him to hold on, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It will not be easy, but it can be done. I know.

      September 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. edgyone

    This is a terrible, sad story. I hope that kid can regain some of what he lost.

    September 22, 2012 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
    • AchillesWrist

      Given he was brave enough to contact the police suggests his mind isn't totally damaged. Memories will be there but being that young he has the years to get past it. Fortunately it was his stepdad and not his biological father so he likely had no special attachment to him that would have curtailed his coming forth.

      September 22, 2012 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. pamik

    I'm sure the so called "mom" will say she did it because the husband threatened her. Look at that face. She looks half nuts. This poor young man missed so much of his teenage life. I hope he finds a good family to help him out.

    September 22, 2012 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      The neighbors report the wife was never out of the house without her husband. He even escorted her to the mailbox. That is not normal. She might be abused too. The husband looks like a total psycho. We cannot know what he did to her behind closed doors. She does not look too well fed either.

      September 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lou Cypher

    make no mistake, there are THOUSANDS of kids like this....

    September 22, 2012 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. Danny

    I know the type of mother it takes. They marry a man, he convinces the mother that her child is evil and his children or their children are the only children they have. They convince themselves that their husband loves them and try to convince the child that they deserve this treatment or worse, that the child is crazy and these things never happened. I wish women would wake up and realize the most charming men are like that for a reason. They want you to let your guard down so you don;t think they could possibly ever do something to your child that your child didn't deserve. Be careful who you bring home, I think some women are more cautious when they bring home a stray dog to their families than a man... you don't know where either has been, or what they have done before coming into your life. if you have children, you have to protect them and always be on your guard.

    September 22, 2012 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Anonymouse

      Sounds exactly like my mom. She remarried when i was 7 to a guy in the army. A bad drunk. A very bad, mean one. He did everything he could (until I turned 17 and left) to abuse, torture, and humiliate us. I'd even kid that he physically abused me so mucxh i got where i didn't even mind the pain. It was all the horrible things he said that really hurt. I'm almost 50 now. Went to therapy, etc. I guess maybe it helped some. I just don't trust anyone – not Anyone. (And no, i didn't turn into an abuser myself – i stay away from people- they are mean) Pets are my friends – they are nicer.

      September 22, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      @ Danny, This is a post that should be in every single womens home in which children present.
      This coming from a man would do wonders for those females with low self esteem... to let this happen

      September 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Angel

    There are hundreds maybe thousands of kids being held captive in America. Even ladies and men. There are monsters out there just waiting for their next victim.

    September 22, 2012 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Michael S

    Parental Licenses. I have said for years that we need them. Strict testing and frequent renewal requirements and no exceptions for any reason, especially not Religion. Parenting should be a privilege and not a Right!

    September 22, 2012 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. Philip

    Having a court appointed children's advocates wouldn't hurt any.
    Back in the 60s, if you were a single mother and recieved public assistance, a court appointed child advocate was assigned to your family. (here in Colorado anyway)
    That at any time there might be this advocate knocking on your door again kept many welfare mothers in line with the program, and discouraged many other from enrolling to begin with.
    As far as i know, advocates are still assigned to cases involving child abuse, but generally speaking, we trust welfare mothers to use public funds wisely for their children these days.

    September 22, 2012 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Generally our world has become less interested in the foundation of family and more in taring it apart. Hence, Satan's plan to demolish Gods 'three fold' core establishment.
      On the contrary, Jesus ? I believe it was said, is to come to break up the family... only to separate his true children from satans children. I'm paraphrasing here... do ya mind ? 😉 lol

      September 22, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Amy

    I never understood how these cases are possible. Doesn't the mother have relatives? Wouldn't they ever visit their sister or daughter and wonder where their nephew or grandson is? How do these people seemingly just fall off the earth? And how does anyone ever get their rocks off by torturing another?

    September 22, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
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