In a child custody case gone wrong, a 32-year-old mother allegedly hid her son at his grandmother's home for two years in order to keep the boy from his father. The mother recently pleaded guilty to five misdemeanors, and she was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years of probation. She was fined $1,500. The boy's grandmother served 12 days in jail and was fined $1,000.
The boy disappeared in 2007 during a child custody battle between his parents, who were never married. When the father, a National Guard officer, won temporary custody, the mother hid the boy from him, allegedly because she suspected abuse. State child welfare authorities investigated the child abuse charges and found no basis for them.
The child's mother had legal options, but failed to exercise them. She could have turned to an experienced child custody attorney to take legal action to reverse the temporary custody order. She could have asked the court to appoint a lawyer to represent the child. Instead, she and her mother apparently took drastic measures to hide the boy.
According to reports, the two women confined the child to his grandmother's house, blacking out the windows and virtually cutting him off from all contact with outsiders. He was only allowed to go outside at night, in a small fenced off area where neighbors and passers-by could not see him.
His grandmother said that the child had the run of the house and that the family went fishing together, planted flowers and watched fireworks. State authorities, however, accused the mother of child abuse, pointing out the boy was deprived of medical care and education.
Sources: CBS News, ""Boy Behind the Wall": Mother who hid child in custody dispute pleads guilty," Sept. 21, 2011
ABC News, "Custody Hearing Today in Case of Illinois Boy Hidden in Wall," Sarah Netter and Barbara Pinto, Sept. 8, 2011