DETROIT (CBS Detroit/AP) – A 12-year-old Detroit boy who was missing for 11 days before he was found in a basement last summer testified Tuesday about alleged abuse at the hands of his father and stepmother.
Charlie Bothuell V, now 13, took the stand at around 2:10 p.m. — first asked was he happy to be there today, where he lived, and with whom.
Charlie spoke clearly and confidently as he pointed out the defendants: his father, Charlie Bothuell IV; and stepmother, Monique Dillard-Bothuell, in the courtroom.
The hearing will determine if the couple will go to trial on charges of torture and child abuse.
Charlie was questioned by prosecutors about everything from his home-schooling curriculum to where he slept in the house. On the latter subject, he said, for a time he slept in a den that was made up into a bedroom, and then later slept on a couch.
Bothuell told the prosecutor that his home was a horrible and isolated place.
Asked if he ever spent time with friends, to which he replied, “No…I never went outside unless I was allowed.” For instance, he said, to go to school or the grocery store. He also described playing catch with a baseball with his father “one time,” and visiting a park another.
Once, Charlie testified, he ran away. “The plan was to go to my aunt’s house,” he said, but he ended up just wandering around for two or three hours until police officers took him home.
After the police left, Charlie said, he was told to lay over the dining room table before he was spanked by his father with a wooden stick and a plastic PVC pipe.
Charlie testified that he was struck on more than one occasion with the pipe — on his head, backside and on his his sides — but couldn’t estimate how many times.
Asked if he was injured, Charlie said yes — the skin was broken.
Charlie was questioned about a rigorous exercise routine, consisting of workouts that took an hour or hour-and-a-half.
If he didn’t perform the routine, he said, he would get a spanking.
“I would get whooped on the butt, and sometimes on the sides…it hurt,” Charlie said, adding that he was ordered to roll over so he could be beaten on each side.”…Sometimes crying, trying to convince my dad to stop…I told him ‘please stop.'”
Charlie said his body was swollen, tender and bruised following the spankings.
“After I got a whooping I was made to go do my workout…It would hurt,” he said.
Most of the time it was his father who beat him, Charlie said, but a few times it was Dillard-Bothuell.
“Sometimes she would punch me, and I got choked once,” he said.
Charlie testified he was told that if he again broke the rules, he would get another whooping; and at times his father threatened to send Charlie to an out-of-state military school.
Charlie said the expectations at his father’s home were “absolutely ridiculous.”
He described a punishment he called “reaching for excellence” in which he was forced to stand with his arms up for an extended period of time. He said it was painful, but if he complained he was “told to shut up,” and then he’d get a whooping if he did not stop talking.
Asked how he felt while he was living with Bothuell IV and Dillard-Bothuell, Charlie replied:
“Depressed, sad; I just wanted to go home to my mom…It was just a terrible place to be.”
In late May of last year, Charlie said he was “so depressed and sad and upset about being there” that he tried to commit suicide by cutting his wrist.
When he would visit his biological mother on weekends, Charlie said, he “didn’t feel comfortable” telling her what was going on at his father’s home.
“I just didn’t think anything would change,” he said, adding that he worried if he told her about the abuse he wouldn’t be allowed to visit her again.
Attorneys for the father and stepmother say their clients did nothing wrong. Defense attorneys claim the boy is a liar who came and went on his own. The elder Bothuell insists he didn’t know his son was in the basement, which has no door at the top of the stairs.
District Court Judge Shannon Holmes will decide if the parents will have to stand trial.
Earlier Tuesday, a police officer testified that Charlie was relieved that his father wasn’t around when he was discovered in the basement
Detective Sgt. Ken Ducker of the state police said he used his flashlight to find Charlie behind a 55-gallon drum and stacks of boxes.
He said there was a blanket nearby, a cereal box, drink bottles and a bowl with chicken bones.
“He asked me if his dad was home,” Ducker recalled. “I said, `no,’ and Charlie said `good.”‘
“He stood up, I asked him to come to me, he walked over to me,” Ducker said. “I asked him was he OK; he said yes. I gave him a hug.”
Ducker said he searched the cluttered basement, roughly 600 square feet, with a federal agent to find evidence that could lead investigators to Charlie.
“I didn’t go into the basement looking for a dead child,” the sergeant said. “I didn’t think we’d find Charlie down there. I was not expecting to find him.”
Defense attorney Shawn Smith asked Ducker if he believed the boy was in the basement for all 11 days, but a prosecutor objected and the question wasn’t answered.
Following Charlie’s testimony, the hearing was adjourned until May 6.
He remains in the custody of his biological mother.
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