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Parents Use Hidden Camera To Capture Abuse Of Autistic Son

ALLEN (CBSDFW.COM) - An Allen couple suspected a caretaker was abusing their autistic son. But they had trouble convincing operators of the group home where he was living, as well as state authorities. So they took matters into their own hands, which led to a shocking discovery and criminal charges.

Karen and Michael Hartley secretly placed a hidden camera inside their son Taylor's room at residential nursing home and documented an alleged beating of the 22-year-old.

"You promise this child when they're born that you're going to love them forever and you're going to protect them," Karen Hartley said of her love for her son.

Taylor's autism and physical size, as he grew older, made it difficult for him to stay with his parents.

So Karen and Michael moved Taylor into several homes in east Allen, then operated by Frank Nerkowski.

Within days of living at a home, located in the 800 block of Meadowcreek, the family received a phone call.

"I get a call from our dentist and he says, 'Karen you're not going to believe this but Taylor has a compound fracture of his jaw'," recalled Karen.

Caretaker Michael Fuller and another worker blamed the injury on a fall.

"At first we tried to give them the benefit of the doubt," Michael said of the situation.

For months the family documented bruises on Taylor's ears and legs, as well as burns on his arm.

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(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

After state investigators failed to prove they were the result of abuse, the Hartley's secretly installed a hidden camera in Taylor's room in May 2011. Two weeks later, the family saw the video of Taylor cowering on his bed just about every time a caretaker entered the room.

Authorities say Fuller is the person seen on recordings beating Taylor with his fists and with a toy gun Taylor's mom and dad gave him as a birthday present.

"I'm sitting here watching daytime television and my son is being beat and treated horribly," said Taylor's mother, "I feel so guilty we didn't do the camera earlier."

Frank Nerkowski manages several residential nursing homes,  owned by his ex-wife, in Allen. He says Fuller no longer works for him and believes Taylor's behavioral problems contributed to what happened.

"Whatever he did on film was not good," Nerkowski said about Fuller, "He's [Taylor] a good kid he's playful but there's no discipline whatsoever."

Fuller appeared in Collin County court last week to face a felony assault charge. His case goes to trial May 14.

Taylor's parent's say their son is not only recovering from broken bones, he's also struggling with a broken spirit.

"He's just real sad. He's lost some of the zest for the things he used to enjoy," Karen said.

CBS 11 News attempted to but was unable to contact Fuller for comment on the allegations.

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