Neighbors saw the boy mowing the lawn outside of his little yellow house in Helena, Alabama, several times over the summer, but because of his small size they believed him to be just nine or ten years old.
Little did they know, the “small” child was actually a malnourished 14-year-old kid who had been held in a basement for the better part of two years.
As ABC 33/40 reports, the teen, whose name has not been released, was hospitalized on Sunday and is said to be in critical condition.
Weighing just 55 lbs. when he entered the hospital, doctors were immediately alerted that something was amiss. Helena Police Chief Pete Folmar explains:
“Doctors noted the child was severely, chronically malnourished, dehydrated, suffering from acute respiratory distress, shock, hypothermia, hypothyroid and that he was close to death.”
Hospital staff called the Department of Human Resources, which then notified the police.
That's when they learned that the boy had been kept in “forced isolation” by his adoptive parents, Richard and Cynthia Kelly.
According to arrest records obtained by AL.com, the Kellys were allegedly keeping the boy in the basement as a form of punishment:
“The couple is accused of denying food, nourishment and medical care to the boy, who was 'subjected to forced isolation for extended periods of time.' Authorities say that 'isolation' was disciplinary in nature. There were no signs the boy was handcuffed, chained or bodily restrained in any way.”
Prior to this incident, the Kellys had never been subject to an investigation by the Alabama Department of Human Resources for abuse or neglect, and both Richard and Cynthia, pictured below, have clean arrest records.
In addition to the 14-year-old boy, the Kellys are also the adoptive parents to a 19-year-old girl, who was reportedly living with them as well. A young man, who is said to be an acquaintance of the family, was also living in the home.
The Kellys had lived in the area for twenty years, but had mostly kept to themselves. Neighbors would occasionally see Richard coming and going, and on several occasions they witnessed him watching over the boy as he mowed the lawn. Still, they were not given any clues that something was wrong. Neighbor Shyler Clayton tells AL.com:
“I'm still in shock. You don't think of this happening to somebody living next door to you.”
Neither of the adoptive children were ever enrolled in Shelby County Schools and it is believed that they were homeschooled.
Chief Folmar, who is a parent himself, is still “struggling to wrap his head around” what the Kellys did. And the community has questions as well. Helena resident Ruth Black ponders how — and why — adoptive parents could do this to their child:
“Why would you do something like this to a child you adopted. They've had to have gone through checks.”
According to Chief Folmar, the teen has a long road to recovery ahead of him:
“The child remains gravely ill at this time and faces a long, difficult recovery and uncertain prognosis.”
Richard and Cynthia Kelly are being held Shelby County Jail on a $1 million bond. As police continue to investigation the situation, Chief Folmar asks for prayers from the community:
“Keep this young man in your thoughts and prayers,'' he says. ”We'll move forward with our investigation and do the very best we can for him."