The brother of a California teen who showed up at a gym malnourished and wearing an ankle chain said he was also abused by the boys' guardian.
"I was going through the same thing," Austin, whose last name was withheld to protect his brother's identity, told CBS' The Early Show regarding Caren Ramirez, who was the one-time guardian for the two boys and was arrested last week on child abuse charges.
Austin said Ramirez beat him and his brother often "for no reason."
Ramirez, 43, was arrested along with Michael Schumacher, 34, and his wife Kelly Layne Lau, 30, and all are accused of more than a dozen charges, including torture, kidnapping and child abuse. Austin's brother fled the couple's home last week and ended up at a gym in Tracy half-naked and frightened.
All three, who have yet to enter pleas, are expected to appear in court Monday. They could face life in prison if convicted.
Austin said a "lack of courage" kept his brother from escaping the home.
"It would take a lot to be strong enough to get away from there," Austin told The Early Show.
Asked what he hoped the outcome of the case will be, Austin was blunt:
"For them not to see the light of day, ever."
The abuse allegations have city officials in Tracy and child-abuse experts baffled as to how the abduction and torture of a teenage boy could have gone undetected for more than a year in this middle-class community once dubbed the second-safest in Northern California.
"Unless this child was chained in the basement for the duration, it's just not possible that somebody could not have seen something," said Lindy Turner-Hardin, executive director of the nonprofit Child Abuse Prevention Council of San Joaquin County.
But neighbors of a Tracy couple didn't notice much, except that the 16-year-old boy looked very skinny when he was spotted taking out the trash recently. And he was seldom seen outside even though he was of school age.
Authorities said the couple and the boy's former guardian repeatedly used a baseball bat, a knife and a belt to abuse the teen, often keeping him in chains.
The boy, who escaped from a group foster home, was abused in the two-story Tudor-style house separated by a fence from the gym where he was discovered, authorities said. A contractor and a Girl Scout leader were raising four young children there in what the wife's MySpace page depicted as a happy household devoted to dance recitals and Oakland Raiders football.
"This has been kind of a shock for us to gain attention this way," said Suzanne Tucker, mayor pro tem of Tracy. "We're a family-oriented community with a small-town feel where neighbors know each other."
Until this case made national headlines, an increase in gang violence was the highest-profile crime problem in Tracy, which was rated the second-safest city in Northern California by a recent survey.
But Turner-Hardin said that San Joaquin county, where Tracy is located, had lately seen an increase in requests for child abuse services. At the same time, the city just east of San Francisco has had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.
"With the housing market and unemployment rates really going through the roof, kids sometimes get the bad end of that," she said.
The boy had been under the care of Sacramento County's child welfare system after Ramirez was charged with beating him. He went missing from a group home in May 2007.
Authorities said he returned to Ramirez two months later, this time living in the couple's Tracy home.
After the boy escaped from the group home, officers filed a missing persons report, said Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong. Noting that police respond to about five runaway calls a day, Leong said the boy was never located.
Dr. Victor Carrion, who studies the effects of trauma on children at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, said it wasn't surprising that the boy returned to the person who beat him. Abused children almost certainly develop post-traumatic stress disorder and begin to believe they deserve the mistreatment, he said.
It's more surprising when a child manages to flee rather than stay and endure more abuse.
"How strong of him ... to be able to still think there's the possibility of escape and to know where to go," he said.
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