A couple suspected of torturing a 17-year-old boy who showed up shackled and bruised at a local gym saying he had escaped his captors appeared in court Thursday.
Kelly Layne Lau, 30, and her husband Michael Schumacher, 34, sat without much expression as a judge formally charged them with nine counts including torture, kidnapping, and false imprisonment for crimes prosecutors say they committed against a 17-year-old boy they allegedly held captive in their home for over a year.
The couple is being held in jail in lieu of bail set at nearly $1.2 million each on kidnapping, torture and other charges.
Lau is a local Girl Scout leader.
Thursday morning investigators searched the couple's home looking for evidence and they pulled out pieces of furniture, carpet and a chain.
"There are three weapons that are noted in the complaint," Prosecutor Angela Hayes said. "A belt, a baseball bat and a knife."
Investigators said the boy's alleged captors chained him up inside the home like an animal and they said they are still uncovering new details.
The Schumachers were also charged with four counts of child endangerment for each of their own small children and the judge ordered each of them to stay away from their kids.
The boy's alleged imprisonment and abuse by Schumacher and Lau were still being investigated, but authorities said Wednesday interviews with the boy were making details of his escape clearer.
After being held for about a year, the boy stole a moment away from the watchful eyes of his captors to climb out a window in their home and jump a backyard fence in search of help.
Law enforcement officials were hopeful the arrest of a third suspect in the case, identified as the boy's aunt and one-time guardian, would help uncover the mystery of how the boy ended up at the home. They also were probing what his relationship was with the couple.
The boy detailed his getaway to investigators, saying he had been chained inside a sport utility vehicle that pulled up to the home. After going inside, police said, he climbed through a rear window and jumped the tall fence between the backyard and a fitness center.
"He found his opportunity and he took it. It's basically luck that this all occurred," Tracy police spokesman Matt Robinson said.
The boy, emaciated, nearly naked and shackled to a chain, limped into the gym Monday, terrified and begging to be hidden, police said.
Authorities would not say whether the boy was chained up regularly or where the boy may have been held in the home. They said they haven't determined how often he was allegedly beaten or tortured but that he appeared at the gym with cuts, bruises and burns across his body.
The woman who police first described as the boy's aunt, Caren Ramirez, 43, was arrested late Tuesday after police received a tip she was in Berkeley.
Police now say she is not a blood relative and was given the boy by his mother before she died.
Police had been looking for Ramirez after they arrested Lau and Schumacher earlier Tuesday.
The connection between Ramirez and the couple is unclear.
Authorities said none of the three had attorneys. Schumacher and Lau, through jail officials, turned down interview requests from The Associated Press. Ramirez was still being questioned by police.
The boy has been released from a Tracy hospital and is in the custody of Child Protective Services, Robinson said.
Ramirez had become the teen's guardian after child welfare officials took him from his abusive father three or four years ago, police said.
Last year, Ramirez pleaded no contest to one felony count of beating the boy, according to court documents.
Police reports referenced in the court filings said investigators responding to reports of abuse in May 2006 found the boy with severe bruising on his buttocks, legs and arms and a split, swollen lip.
Ramirez used "martial arts sticks" to spank him and had hit him in the past with a spatula, broomstick and a clothes hanger, the boy told investigators. She was sentenced to five years probation, which was revoked and a warrant issued for her arrest after she failed to appear at an April court hearing.
After Ramirez was arrested on the abuse charge, the boy was placed in a group foster home in Sacramento. He fled the home in May 2007, according to court documents.
Gym employees said Wednesday they were having trouble getting images of the dirt-smeared, barefoot boy out of their minds. The teen came through the gym's front doors wearing nothing but over sized gray boxer shorts and carrying a three-foot chain padlocked to his swollen ankle, workers said.
Yvonne Macias, 44, front desk supervisor at In-Shape Sports Club, said the boy came in trembling and repeating "'Please don't let them get me. Please don't let them hurt me."'
The boy had dark circles under his bright blue eyes and curled up behind the front desk in a fetal position as workers tried to comfort him, Macias said.
Police officers were so traumatized by the situation that a chaplain was brought in to counsel them after the boy was discovered, Robinson said.
Gym manager Chuck Ellis said the Schumacher family came to the gym during the summer to request that they raise the height of the wall separating their home from the gym. The family complained that teenagers were sneaking through their yard to the gym to play basketball, Ellis said.