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CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - Atlanta's WSB-TV has obtained exclusive video that neighbors say shows a boy who had been missing for four years doing dangerous work on a roof before his rescue in Clayton County, Georgia.
WSB-TV's Jessica Jaglois talked residents who said they were shocked to hear the boy had been held captive. The neighbor told Jaglois that he and his wife often only watched the boy doing yard work, but when they saw him several feet in the air while his parents were safely on the ground, they started recording.
Clayton County police rescued the 13-year-old boy, who was reported missing by his mother in 2010, Saturday morning.
WSB-TV’s Mark Winne broke this story Saturday morning.
Clayton County police Sgt. Kevin Hughes said officers first went to the home near Jonesboro about 11 p.m. Friday to conduct a welfare check on a child.
“Upon initial arrival, responding officers made contact with several occupants at the location who denied having knowledge of any information concerning the victim,” Hughes said. “After a brief search of the premises, the officers left without locating the victim.”
About 2 a.m., police said they received a second call about the boy and returned to the house. When officers arrived and after several minutes of questioning adults in the house, officers found the child hidden behind a panel behind a linen closet in an insulation area in the garage.
“While at the location during the second call, the victim was able to establish phone contact with his mother, and she in turn passed on additional information to the officers on the scene,” Hughes told Winne.
Police arrested five people at the home, including the boy’s father, 37-year-old Gregory Jean, and stepmother, 42-year-old Samantha Joy Davis, and charged them with false imprisonment, cruelty to children and obstruction. The other three people arrested were juveniles, Hughes said.
A judge denied bond for the couple on Sunday.
WSB-TV’s Tyisha Fernandes talked more with investigators about who had held the boy hostage since 2010.
“(We) located the child behind a false wall, which was camouflaged with towels,” Clayton County police Sgt. Joanna Southerland told Fernandes.
The only reason why police say they knew where to find him was because the teen found a cellphone that wasn't turned on, and he downloaded the Magic Jack app. He then sent a text message to his mother, who was in Florida.
“He just couldn't thank us enough,” said Daniel Day with the Clayton County Police Department.
Police were there to watch the emotional reunion as the mother pulled her son's hat back, looked at him and wiped his tears.
“He just kept saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,’” Day said. “He was just overjoyed that we had found him.”
Davis is accused of hitting the boy with a stick on his legs and backside.
Authorities said the boy was visiting his father in 2010, but the father refused to return the boy to his mother.
The boy was reunited with his mother just after 11 a.m. Saturday at the Clayton County Police Department.
A neighbor told Winne the boy was frequently outside the house, mostly doing yard work but sometimes playing.
Authorities say they have a lot of unanswered questions and they are working with the boy's mother.
They say the child’s mother apparently reported the boy missing to child welfare authorities but not to police – possibly because she’s an immigrant unfamiliar with the system.
“I think there may be a cultural issue. She thought she was doing the right thing by calling child support recovery to locate him,” Southerland told Fernandes.
In court, Jean spoke to a judge about a 2006 arrest that he says was a case of mistaken identity.
“They dismissed the case. That was not me. They had the wrong person,” Jean said.
Jean said he is from Haiti but is a U.S. citizen and has never been to jail. He has been living and working in Clayton County for six years.
WSB-TV learned that Davis was convicted in a child cruelty case in Henry County in 2006. She is still on probation and was not eligible for bond.
Jean and Davis are scheduled to appear in court again Dec. 9.