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Florida woman accused of chaining grandson for three years

By Juan Ortega, Sun Sentinel –

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — A Florida woman has been arrested on charges she chained her 19-year-old grandson to a bed nightly for three years, leaving a small bucket nearby for use as a toilet, according to an arrest affidavit.

Acting on an anonymous tip, authorities visited the young man’s home Dec. 26 and found him confined with a thick chain locked to a metal bunk bed and wrapped around his waist, police said. Part of the chain wasn’t taut, allowing the man limited mobility. Inside the bedroom was the bucket and a strong odor of urine, police said.

“It was extremely disturbing to see somebody discipline an individual in that manner,” said Lt. Joe McHugh, spokesman for Coral Springs, Fla., police.

During police questioning, Shirley Roberson Mathis, 58, said she started chaining her grandson each night shortly after an incident in 2008, when he burglarized a home to steal food and her landlord threatened to evict the family, the affidavit said.

Mathis said she provided him drinking water and a “small portable toilet container” inside their home in the 10600 block of Northwest Second Place, police said.

The grandmother was taken into custody last week on charges of aggravated abuse of a disabled adult, abuse of a disabled adult and false imprisonment, the affidavit said. She also was charged with aggravated child abuse because the alleged abuse began when her grandson was underage, police said.

Mathis declined to comment on Tuesday outside her home. A man who was with her said, “The child was never neglected. The truth will come out.”

Mathis’ grandson, whose name wasn’t released, told officers that he was chained nightly to his bunk bed by Mathis, police said. He was taken to University Hospital, where he remained Tuesday, police said.

When police visited the family’s home last month, Mathis was out of state and had left the boy at home in a family friend’s care, the affidavit said.

The man told police that “he deserved to be chained to the bed” and that “it was for his own good,” the affidavit said. He said his confinement prevented him from committing burglaries for food, the affidavit said.

The man disliked when officers questioned his relatives, police said. He grabbed a broken broom stick and tried to strike one officer, the affidavit said. Police confined him under the state’s Baker Act, a law allowing mental health professionals and authorities to detain a person for up to 72 hours to determine mental stability.

At the hospital Jan. 1, he was involved in a disruption that required hospital staff to subdue and restrain him, the affidavit said. During the incident, his right arm was broken, police said.

Though many families face challenges, “it’s never appropriate in any circumstance to chain your child to a bed,” said Mark Riordan, spokesman for Florida’s Department of Children & Families.

Riordan said parents can phone 211 Broward, a nonprofit helpline that provides information and referrals for health and human services and crisis/suicide intervention. “There is a vast array of services,” he said.

DCF has since opened investigations pertaining to the man, his 14-year-old brother and 15-year-old sister, officials said. His siblings also lived at the home and were in Mathis’ care for about 14 years, police said.

A police review showed the family had eight child protective services reports. Of those, six were associated with Mathis after the children were placed in her care. The two other reports were associated with the man’s mother, who lost custody of her children in 1996, police said.

Observing the man’s behavior, police said he may have a developmental disability, the affidavit said. Police didn’t elaborate, citing medical privacy laws. The man’s competency is under evaluation, Riordan said.

“This family was known to us, and we worked with them in the past,” Riordan said. “This is the first time that these allegations came to our attention.”

The man was locked in the bedroom with his younger brother at night, but his brother wasn’t chained, police said. The bedroom door could be unlocked only from the outside, police said.

The siblings were placed in foster care, Riordan said. Officials want to ensure that the man and his siblings “get fully evaluated for any medical or other needs they have,” Riordan said.

Mathis’ friend, as well as her fiance, acknowledged they sometimes helped chain the young man, a police affidavit said. But they are not facing charges after police determined they were acting at the instruction of Mathis, said McHugh, the police lieutenant.

McHugh said he hoped the man receives treatment and “recovers from the cruel punishment that he received.”

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What kind of punishment is that? There is some thing wrong to begin with if they were worried about him robbing place for food .. did they not feed him ? How sad the way people think these days and how sad that this could have went on for three years without being caught sooner .. God Bless the young man

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