New Castle County, DE, United States (4E) – A Delaware couple has been detained Wednesday for allegedly maltreating their 12-year-old son who was locked away in his bare room for months.
According to New Castle County police, the boy’s father, 41-year-old Robert Hohn and his stepmom, 39-year-old Shannon Watterson have been accused of locking the boy in his room for three months. He was only allowed to go out to for short visits to the bathroom.
Police said the boy fled barefoot from the home located at Brookside Boulevard in Newark and knocked on a neighbor’s house for help.
Melissa Ferraro-Walsh told Delaware Online that they were just finishing up dinner when the boy knocked and asked if her stepson lived with them.
She said her stepson and the boy used to go to the same school together up until last year. The boy’s parents later claimed they turned to home schooling because the boy have some ‘behavioral issues.’
The neighbor alerted police about the child, who was not wearing shoes, with bruises on his face and seemed to be malnourished.
Ferraro-Walsh also informed Delaware Online that a car stopped by her house asking about ‘a little boy with bare feet.’
She denied any knowledge of the boy but asked for the person’s telephone number which she passed over to the police.
Police went to the boy’s home to investigate and found the boy’s room was bare except for a lamp, the windows were bolted shut, and the door handle was installed backwards.
Three other children, ages 9, 10 and 14 who lived in the home and who continued to attend school, are now with a family member.
After examination, doctors at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children said the child was ’20 pounds below acceptable medical levels’ for his age.
Hohn and Watterson were both charged with felony first-degree child abuse and several counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The pair, who failed to post bail, remained in jail Thursday afternoon.
Police said Hahn is the 12-year-old’s only confirmed biological parent.