DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A judge has scheduled a final day of testimony for a 13-year-old Detroit boy who was found in his basement after an 11-day search last summer.
Charlie Bothuell is testifying against his father, also named Charlie Bothuell, and his stepmother, Monique Dillard-Bothuell. A judge must decide whether there’s enough evidence to send them to trial on charges of torture and child abuse.
The hearing has stretched over many days and is resuming on Wednesday.
During earlier testimony, Charlie said he was ordered to the basement by his stepmother as a punishment. He says he never called for help during the 11-day period, although police and others had been in the home during a search.
Defense attorneys have questioned Charlie’s truthfulness and noted that he occasionally left the basement for food.
Charlie has described his home as a “terrible place” and said he was beaten with a plastic pipe by his father, removed from school, isolated from other kids and forced to perform daily rigorous exercises. 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.
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 pipe.
Charlie testified that he was struck on more than one occasion with the pipe — on his head, backside and on his sides — but couldn’t estimate how many times.
At an earlier hearing, prosecutors asked if Charlie remembered how he got a cut on his chest after a photo of the wound was shown in court.
“Yes. My dad had, it was a PVC pipe, an he had, like, drove in into my chest and twisted it, and it cut some of the skin off,” Charlie said. “(It happened) upstairs, in the hallway, up against a wall.”
Attorney Shawn Smith asked Charlie questions – involving his truthfulness. Smith brought up a note of apology Bothuell had written for trying to make his family sick by putting bleach on dishes — something the teen now denies.
Charlie went on to describe how Dillard-Bothuell ordered him to the basement when he had taken a bathroom break during a workout on an elliptical machine. He said she gave him dry cereal, protein shakes and two electronic devices.
“She said if I heard anything just shut up and be quiet. … I didn’t know what was going to happen to me if I didn’t listen,” Charlie told a judge. “I had been threatened before that she would kill me.”
He said he heard Dillard-Bothuell call his father and say he was missing.
“I remember my dad coming home, and he came down and looked around,” Charlie said. “I’m not sure where he looked exactly. He was moving stuff around and checking to see if I was in the basement.”
During cross-examination, defense attorney Godfrey Dillard noted that Charlie’s mother, Africa Shippings, was at the home soon after the boy was reported missing.
“Why didn’t you just walk up the stairs and say, ‘Mom, here I am,'” Dillard asked.
“I don’t know,” replied Charlie, who gave the same answer when repeatedly asked why he didn’t flee the house.
The elder Bothuell was giving an interview to cable TV host Nancy Grace on June 25 when he learned that Charlie had been found by police after 11 days. He expressed surprise and said he didn’t know his son was in the basement.
“I thought my son was dead,” the father told reporters.
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