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Sister of Boy in Closet Snuck Him Food

The sister of an Oklahoma boy who says his mother locked him in apartment closets over four years said Thursday she would bring her brother food, but would tell him not to chew because their mother would check his teeth to see whether he had eaten.

Jaleasa McCall, 18, told The Associated Press that her mother beat, whipped, choked and tied up her 14-year-old brother, often locking him away for days at a time.

She said she would bring her brother food and sympathy, but couldn't summon the courage to call police.

"He was losing a lot of weight. Some days he would be pale from being in there so long," McCall said. "He would really start to smell and stuff. It looked to me like he was losing hope."

The mother, LaRhonda McCall, 37, and a friend, Steven Hamilton, 38, are jailed on 20 complaints each of child abuse and child neglect after the boy, malnourished and covered in bruises and scars, sought help from a security guard at a National Guard armory last Friday. A police affidavit says both acknowledged beating the boy and that he often was locked in a closet. Jail officials do not know of an attorney for either.

LaRhonda McCall was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in New York in 1996 in the death of her 2-year-old daughter and served six months jail time. Prosecutors in that case alleged McCall, who then went by LaRhonda Presley, essentially starved the toddler who died in February 1995, according to a New York grand jury indictment obtained by the AP.

Jaleasa McCall was 4 years old at the time and said Thursday that she doesn't remember her sister, but said she and her brother went to live with a cousin in New Jersey for several years after their mother was convicted. She said she moved to Oklahoma to live with her mother in 2007, a couple years after her brother moved to the state.

She said at first she saw no mistreatment by her mother, but that LaRhonda McCall eventually starting abusing the eldest of seven younger brothers and sisters. Jaleasa McCall said the beatings became worse over time and that her mother and Hamilton started accusing the boy of stealing, tying him up and locking him in a bedroom closet for five days at a time or more.

"When my mom wasn't home or when she would go to work, I would try to get him out so he could get washed up and give him some food until it was time to get him put back in there," Jaleasa McCall said.

She said she eventually realized the punishments had become abusive, but she feared what might happen to her other siblings if she called authorities.

"Some days, if it got really rough, I would go to the phone and pick it up, but then I'd put it back down because I'd be too scared," she said. "I was basically scared and afraid. I didn't really care about what would happen to me, but it was my brothers and sisters I was mostly worried about."

McCall said she and her brother had gotten into an argument last Friday while their mother was at work.

"We were trying to get the house cleaned up so she wouldn't yell and scream at us," she said. "That's when he just said, 'I can't take this anymore,' and he just left. He walked out of the door."

The boy wandered about a mile-and-half to the military facility. Security guards at the base said the boy was covered with scars and bruises and that his hands had deep cuts.

Managers at the last two apartments where the family lived have said they never saw the boy. One manager said that after the family was evicted for not paying bills, she found a hole in the wall of a closet filled with human waste.

The 14-year-old and the six other minor children, who range in age from 1 to 12, are in custody of the Department of Human Services, police said. Jaleasa McCall said she's not aware any of the children attended school.

McCall said she's glad her siblings are safe, but acknowledged mixed feelings about her mother's fate.

"They deserve what they get, but then again, that's my mother. I love her," McCall said. "As for what she should get, that's up to Oklahoma."