How many times have we read variations on this story, with almost no changes? I have counted 20 stories in Florida alone of children who died in situations involving custody/visitation with an abusive father. This poor little boy managed to avoid being added to the list only because he literally escaped from captivity, like some sort of prisoner of war.
It is almost impossible to say how many children survive situations involving custody/visitation with a abusive father, but with the scars of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse or neglect. Notice that the mother's existence is at least acknowledged--no mysterious stork here for once--but we're only told she hasn't been around since the baby's birth.Why? Was she homeless? Did she have drug or alcohol problems? Was she underage? It seems to me whatever her issues were--assuming she had issues--they weren't nearly as bad as Daddy's turned out to be, wouldn't you think? And that's assuming she DID in fact have issues. And notice that not one word is said here to document or even suggest that she did. It is also DISTINCTLY POSSIBLE that abuser daddy THOMAS BOONE simply outgunned her in court. The general public still does not understand that these kinds of torturers are often unrelenting in their pursuit of custody, and that they are obsessive in their desire to either "punish" the mother and/or secure a helpless victim for their rage.
Exclusive: DCF missed clues of Port Charlotte boy's captivity
As father, stepmother await trial, questions linger for Florida agency
4:27 PM, Feb. 28, 2011
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By the age of 10, the wiry boy had learned to live like a prisoner of war.
He told his grandmother he passed the months trapped in his room peering at the freedom of the night sky, craning to hear his stepsister’s TV and plotting his escape.
Charlotte County sheriff’s reports paint a disturbing picture of the towheaded boy’s room in a quiet, middle-class Port Charlotte neighborhood:
No toys or lights. No furniture except for a urine-soaked mattress. The lock on his door reversed.
His petite 40-year-old stepmother, Kimberly Boone, told detectives she had smeared feces and urine in his face, “like you would a dog,” and slid peanut butter sandwiches under his door so she wouldn’t have to see him.
It’s been eight months since a crime scene technician found the boy asleep in a bathroom vanity and took him from the home.
But his exit could have come much earlier.
The boy was seen by a slew of child welfare, school, medical and mental health officials and law enforcement officers long before the arrests of his stepmother and father, Thomas Boone, according to records The News-Press obtained.
A Department of Children and Families investigator first visited the home and saw the room in early December.
The agency’s internal review shows the case was bungled. The case has played a role in changes to local DCF policies.
The child is not being named because of the nature of the allegations.
“It’s just unbelievable how many people erred in this,” said Mary Kaiser, his 70-year-old grandmother who has been caring for the boy in her south Fort Myers condo. “Somebody needs to be responsible.”
Three abuse reports were made to DCF starting in December 2009.
The child’s pleas for another place to live went unheeded, records show. He begged DCF investigator Gordon Smith in January for another place to live because he “needed a break,” and drew a picture at school of a gun with bullets going into his head, records show.
The department’s quality assurance review of the case was acquired through a public-records request but all other DCF records are confidential.
Smith left the boy in the home after seeing the room with the mattress and reversed doorknob, records say.
He wouldn’t say why he left him there.
“I really can’t go into that right now because it’s part of the criminal case and I’m being deposed,” he said.
Smith interviewed the parents and the boy, often alone, at least six times and made at least three visits to the home, the review shows. Smith said conditions had spiraled downhill from the time he first saw him to June.
“People don’t know the whole story, and that’s not to say that mistakes weren’t made,” said Smith, 63, of Port Charlotte, who earned $1,507 biweekly and officially retired Dec. 30, 2010.
Smith said the case played no role in his retirement. He was hired by DCF in 2004 after 26 years of police work.
He said he often thinks about the boy, who “was the one who suffered because of it.”
Boy sneaks out
It wasn’t until law enforcement showed up June 19, 2010, after his father called to report him missing, that the boy found a way out.
That day, the grandmother said, the roughly 50-pound boy sneaked out to hunt for food in the master bedroom.
Kimberly and Thomas Boone, 39, spent little time in jail after posting $12,500 bond each, court records show. DCF later placed the boy with his grandmother.
On Thursday, a Charlotte magistrate terminated DCF’s supervision.
His stepmother and father are awaiting trial on two felony child abuse charges each, including one for malicious punishment and/or torture, and a felony child neglect charge.
Neither responded to requests for comment. They are being represented by attorneys paid for by tax dollars. Both have filed pleas of not guilty.
Kaiser plans to relocate with the boy to Tennessee to be with family and away from the attention that will follow from the criminal case.
Kaiser, who calls her son’s alleged actions uncharacteristic, tried to isolate her grandson from the media frenzy after the arrests, but he overheard his father’s name on TV.
“‘Now people will believe me, and now Gordon Smith will believe me,’” Boone recalled her grandson saying.
Amen, she said, and pulled him close for a hug.
The DCF report
DCF’s report outlines several shortcomings.
It concluded Smith failed to gauge the risk to the child, especially given Kimberly Boone’s past and the couple’s admission they confined him for long periods to punish him.
The couple married in 2009, the report says, and conditions changed for the boy. His birth mother has not been in the child’s life since he was a baby, his grandmother said.
Kimberly Boone’s teen children had been removed because of broken bones of her then-infant son, the report says.
It’s not clear in the review when the injuries occurred, but the incident was noted in a DCF report the year before the couple married. Kimberly Boone’s history with the child welfare system began in 1996 after an allegation of physical abuse, it says.
Smith said he had social services come to the home to provide such things as counseling. He blamed the system’s bureaucracy for a communication gap.
“If you don’t hear anything back from the services, you assume everything is OK, and that’s the problem,” he said. “I was relying on other people to tell me what was going on.”
Lutheran Services Florida is subcontracted to handle such services.
Among other failings listed in the report: Smith neglected to question explanations for documented scratches on the boy’s neck and thoroughly investigate a head injury.
He failed to take the boy for mandatory interviews with a child protection team and asked for an exception to the process that would have brought an independent opinion.
“The child continually expressed fear of his stepmother and stated he was afraid to be alone with her,” the quality assurance report says.
Smith said the Boones wanted help but the agency doesn’t have money to deliver services, only make judgments.
“If I’m knocking on the door and saying, ‘I’m from the government and I can help,’ I better be able to back that up,” Smith said. “I didn’t find that in this case and in most cases.”
It initially seemed the family could be kept together, which is often best for the child if he is safe, said Cookie Coleman, who leads DCF in Southwest Florida.
Smith and his supervisor, Abby Duwe, were verbally reprimanded after the report, she said.
Their actions also were dissected before other supervisors for training purposes.
Kaiser believes that was not enough for Smith.
“That man should go to prison with the stepmother because I personally cried and called him until I’m sure if he knew I was calling he would never answer the phone,” she said.
With all eyes on the family, how did the system not pluck the child from his home earlier?
The case was muddied by differing professional opinions and the child’s recanting of allegations, Coleman said, noting that is not uncommon for children to do.
“Unfortunately, the investigator was listening to that and not actually looking at the physical evidence and giving it the proper weight.”
Kaiser has been frustrated by the response. Child welfare officials have pointed to behavioral problems as a reason, she said.
The boy was taking medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the DCF report says.
“Once DCF realized they had screwed up, they didn’t just say, ‘Wow we screwed up,’ but they just tried to keep covering it up,” Kaiser said.
Coleman said the way the case was handled factored into policy changes.
Investigators can no longer ask for an exception for a mandatory interview with a child protection team, she said, as Smith did for a second report of the stepmother grabbing the child’s neck in January.
“This pretty much gets another set of eyes on the case,” Coleman said.
The team is run by an organization independent of DCF, and conducts detailed interviews to try to ferret out the truth.
Smith asked for the exception because he said there were no signs of injury and the child recanted, the DCF review says.
The agency also will do deeper research into a family’s abuse history and look for patterns that stretch to the present, Coleman said.
Still, she said, the system is not failure proof.
“We are taking steps but unfortunately, we will continue to miss things,” she said. “We can always improve and we always need to improve.”
Signs of abuse
When the crime scene technician found the 10-year-old under the sink, he emerged looking scared and malnourished, say records that also provided this information:
The 10-year-old said his stepmother hit, scratched and threw him, along with forcing him to eat a piece of cloth with feces.
At times, he was made to stand in the corner with his arms up for days.
In the morning, he was allowed a slug of water and, at night, a peanut butter sandwich he sometimes hid under his mattress for when he was really hungry.
The boy told authorities he had been locked in his room since December, only leaving for school or when his family was gone.
The couple didn’t dispute much of what he said, according to reports. Kimberly Boone said she kept the door locked from 9 p.m. to the morning.
Thomas Boone told detectives his son could come out. Keeping him in the room was punishment for lying, he said.
The couple moved out of the white house with green trim after their arrests, said landlord Phillip Heyden.
The Boones told him the boy would run away at night, and they were in counseling.
“They seemed to be nice people, and it turned into a nightmare for them,” Heyden said.
His wish list
The evening the 10-year-old was removed, before going to bed in the cozy guest room of his grandmother’s condo, he scribbled out two lists.
Things he wanted to get included: “few bags of marshmellows, few boxes of gramcrackers.”
On his to-do list was: “roast marshmellows, go shoping ... go to the park for a few minuts, draw.”
He has asked to see his father, and told detectives he loved him, court records show. His father’s attorney has asked a no-contact order be lifted, which was denied.
The boy’s drawings no longer depict suicide; they feature airplanes. He recently told his grandmother he no longer thinks about his stepmother every day. That’s probably a good thing, she told him.
“There will be remnants of this forever, but he’s got a real capability for solving problems,” Kaiser said. “He’s like a little man in a 10-year-old body.”