Published by Dailymail.co.uk on 10/26/12 — A Nevada man’s 15-year search for his missing son has ended after the boy, now 18, was found wandering around Los Angeles following years of alleged abuse by his biological mother and stepfather.
Tony Wawrzynski of Reno, Nevada says he hasn’t seen his son, Mitch, since the boy’s mother kidnapped him when he was just three years old.
Found: Tony Wawrzynski of Reno, Nevada has found his son that was kidnapped by the boy’s mother 15 years ago — and the boy is believed to be a victim in a Georgia child abuse scandal.
Wawrzynski has written dozens of letters and hired a private investigator to try and find the boy, but his mother had changed her name and moved across the country.
As the years passed, Wawrzynski had all but given up hope that he would ever find his son.
Then last week, a detective found one of Wawrzynski’s letters in the Georgia home of Sheila Comer, who is being investigated for allegedly locking her child in a room and starving him for years.
That child’s name is Mitch, and investigators believe that he is the son who Wawrzynski lost so many years ago.
Authorities called Wawrzynski last week and informed him of their discovery and the Nevada father was overjoyed, but also heartbroken over what investigators believe his son has endured.
‘It’s been really hard on me, I mean, me and Mitch when he was a baby, we were really close,’ Wawrzynski told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. ‘We were inseparable. When Mitch was a baby, I was the one that fed him. I was the one that changed his diapers.’
Investigators say 18-year-old Mitch Comer was locked in a room in his home for years and was so malnourished that he still had his baby teeth and looked like a pre-teen
In jail: Paul and Sheila Marie Comer allegedly starving and maltreating 18-year-old Mitch, who was found wandering around a bus station more than 2,000 miles from home.
‘I thought he was a 12-year-old boy,’ said Georgia Detective Kevin Morgan at the bond hearing of Paul and Sheila Comer, who were arrested last month on charges of cruelty to children and false imprisonment.
Mitch Comer was just 5′ 1″ and weighed only 87 pounds when he was found wandering around downtown Los Angeles.
He was so neglected, his skin was translucent and he told investigators he hadn’t seen the sun in two years. He said he was confined to a bathroom and bedroom and wasn’t fed often, occasionally getting soup or cereal but little of substance, Morgan said.
Wawrzynski said he’s not sure how much his son knows about him, since he was taken from him at such a young age. He is hoping to reunite with him at a Nov. 10 fundraiser for Mitch in Powder Springs, Georgia, he said.
‘I definitely want some time for us to be able to talk and for him to get to know me,’ Wawrzynski said. ‘My hopes are definitely that I’m gonna have my son back.’
Arrest warrants filed in Georgia say the Comers ‘made Mitch kneel on the floor, bend his head and place his forehead against the wall, and place his hands behind his head for long periods of time.’
Detectives said the 18-year-old boy had practically translucent skin and looked no more than 12 or 13 years old. Pictured, police searching the family home.
The Comers’ two daughters, who are 11 and 13, told investigators they heard him cry and scream for food often, Morgan said.
Paul and Sheila Comer, who had lived in the house 14 months, admitted to investigators that Mitch was confined to the room.
‘They both conceded that that was his life,’ Morgan said. ‘He lived in that room for years.’
The boy was kept in such seclusion that his two younger sisters in the same house did not know what he looked like, the authorities revealed.
‘The sisters haven’t seen the brother in over two years,’ said Paulding’s Cpl. Ashley Henson. ‘They didn’t even know what color his hair was.’
Paul Comer told investigators he brought Mitch Comer food at 7am noon and 7pm each day and fed him whatever the family was eating.
On September 11, a retired police sergeant working security at a downtown Los Angeles bus station noticed Mitch Comer.
Police decided to investigate further because the teen looked much younger than the 18 years he claimed, Los Angeles police said last month.
The teen told authorities he had suffered from years of abuse after being taken out of school in the eighth grade.
He told authorities his stepfather gave him $200 and a list of homeless shelters before he was put on a bus to Los Angeles on his 18th birthday. Paul Comer told investigators Mitch Comer wanted to be an actor.
Mr Comer and the boy’s mother Sheila Marie were arrested on six charges of child abuse and one charge of false imprisonment on September 12, at their home near Dallas.
As an 18-year-old, Mitch was not eligible for foster care, but has been taken in by a local family and is ‘doing well’, detectives said.
He did not know his own address, but his parents were quickly tracked down.
The couple’s two daughters have been in protective custody since their parents were arrested, investigators said.
The Comers have no prior criminal history, but were the subject of a 2009 investigation by local authorities following an abuse allegation when the family lived in Cherokee County.
The case was referred to the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, but was later closed, and no charges were filed.
Neighbours on the quiet cul-de-sac of two-story brick and vinyl siding homes, about 30 miles outside Atlanta, said the couple kept to themselves and were shocked to discover that the family had a son.
‘Abuse’: Mitch told detectives he was forced to stand against the wall at the family home near Dallas, Georgia, for up to eight hours at a time
The FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have joined the case, Cpl. Henson added.
Mrs Comer’s mother, Diana Powell, of Iowa, said she hadn’t spoken to her daughter in more than a decade and hadn’t seen her grandson since he was a toddler.
Powell told the station that she had feared her daughter and husband abused their children but had no direct evidence.
‘They mistreated him something terrible. I got on her case about it and she disappeared from my life,’ she said crying.
Authorities say that they are just at the ‘tip of the iceberg’ with the case and more charges could be brought against the parents.
Monica Moore, an investigator with the Paulding County District Attorney’s office, described the 18-year-old victim as small, very timid, and extremely polite.
Moore confirmed that a local family had agreed to house the teenager, according to Channel 2.
A spokesman from Paulding County Public Schools could also not confirm whether the children have ever been enrolled in the school system.
Records show the Comers have lived in almost two dozen different homes during the past two decades. Neighbours said the family had lived at their large Dallas home for at least a few years.
Dion Walker and Mea Smith told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that their children had played with the Comers’ daughters over the years but that they had never even seen Mitch.
They said they were surprised to learn the family had a son. ‘Maybe, when the young girls would stare at us, were they trying to say something?’ said Mr Walker. ‘Should we have noticed?’
Mitch was flown back to Dallas on Wednesday to participate in the investigation and legal proceedings.
His stepfather had his own business repairing home appliances, said next-door neighbour John White. They rarely spoke.
Mrs Comer never left the house unless she was with her husband, not even to check the mail, said Mr White. Their two daughters would sometimes come outside and play, but only in the back yard.
Neighbours assumed the girls didn’t go to school either – they never caught the bus that picked up other children in the cul-de-sac every morning.
Neighbors said they had no clue the Comers had a son until a detective came knocking at their doors asking questions last week.
‘I had no idea, no clue. There were no signs of a son at all,’ said Mr Walker, who has lived next to the Comers for two years. ‘The few occasions we would see them go to the van, it was always the parents and the two girls.’
Walker said police swarmed the Comers’ home last week, arresting the parents and taking both girls into protective custody.
Walker said the Comer family did not take part in neighbourhood association meetings and their girls never attended the neighbourhood Halloween block parties.