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  • The Associated Press

    A teen weighing 70 pounds turned up at a hospital badly injured. Four family members are charged

    By JIM SALTER,

    2024-03-19
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3UPjx9_0ry3pzPK00

    ZEARING, Iowa (AP) — Four members of a rural Iowa family are accused of abducting and abusing an 18-year-old relative who had been handcuffed to a bed and beaten so badly that he had brain bleeding and multiple broken ribs, and who was so malnourished that he weighed just 70 pounds (32 kilograms) when he showed up at a hospital earlier this year, court documents say.

    Gary Graham Jr., 44, Danielle Graham, 42, Aaron Williams, 20, and a 16-year-old girl, all from Zearing, Iowa, were charged Monday with first-degree kidnapping and willful injury. They face a preliminary hearing March 29. Court records show that a judge issued an order preventing them from having contact with the alleged victim. The teen girl is charged as an adult, but The Associated Press is not naming her because of her age.

    A supervisor for the public defender’s office for Story County said defense attorneys will be assigned, but they haven’t been yet.

    The house sits at the end of a residential street in Zearing, a community of 500 people about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Des Moines. Farmland, windmills and dirt roads are nearby. Stickers adorned the front and side doors of the ranch-style home, and Christmas lights still hung along the roof. A dog barked from inside, but no one answered when a reporter knocked on the door.

    The allegations stunned the community, Story County Sheriff’s Capt. Nicholas Lennie said Tuesday.

    “It’s tragic. It has our whole area in shock, and rightly so,” Lennie said. “It’s not a common thing for one human being to treat another this way, let alone a family member. Sadly, the victim in this case endured months of abuse and being restrained in what most of us consider our safe place — our homes.”

    Court documents do not state specifically what relationship the teenager had to the other family members, but an application for a search warrant said Gary Graham Jr. is not the teenager’s biological father. Lennie declined comment on the specific relationships.

    The teenager is now out of the hospital but is “still recovering and will be for quite some time,” Lennie said.

    A hospital in Ames alerted the sheriff’s office on Jan. 27 of an 18-year-old patient who was severely malnourished with multiple injuries that included bleeding on the brain, rib fractures and bruising and wounds throughout his body. An affidavit filed in the case said the teen arrived at the hospital in a “semi-conscious to unconscious state.”

    Medical workers determined that the injuries were in various stages of healing, indicating that they didn’t all happen at the same time, the document stated.

    Danielle Graham told police that the teenager had left home in November after turning 18, and hadn’t been heard from until he showed up at the home on Jan. 26 in such bad condition she feared he would die, according to the court document. She said she and Williams drove the teenager to the hospital.

    But the affidavit said a search warrant revealed cell phone messages, videos and photos indicating that the 18-year-old had never left the home, and that he was abused by his relatives.

    The teenager told investigators that he was physically abused by Gary Graham Jr. and Williams. He said he would be handcuffed to bed during the night, and often during the day, and no one would help him. Police said an Amazon.com order under Danielle Graham’s account showed the purchase and delivery of handcuffs, shackles and a handcuff key.

    In the search warrant application, an officer wrote that a guidance counselor said the teenager was doing his schooling online — but apparently sought to attend classes in person.

    The counselor provided police with an email from Oct. 19 in which the teenager asked the counselor to “email my mom and ask if I can come to school” for classes, adding, “don’t say it was my idea please and thank you.”

    A week later, the teenager wrote to the counselor again, stating, “They won’t have me go unless it is required,” followed by, “Can you require me to go to school,” the search warrant application stated.

    Court records show that Gary Graham Jr. spent two years in prison after a conviction for domestic abuse-second offense in 2009. Separately, in 2017, Gary Graham Jr.'s divorce agreement with another woman was amended to give the woman sole custody of a child “due to the abuse perpetrated” by Graham.

    ___

    Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri. Summer Ballentine in Columbia, Missouri, and researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed.

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