But when cops had a talk with Mitch Comer, they realized he was an 18-year-old -- one who measured only 5 feet tall and weighed just 87 pounds. They said he appeared to be as young as 12:
The youth was discovered at the Greyhound bus terminal downtown after a retired officer told the LAPD about the seemingly homeless kid hanging around the area he patrolled as a security guard.
Officers, believing he was underage, interviewed Comer and found him a place to stay. They say he revealed a tale of macabre abuse at the hands of his stepfather, Paul Comer, in Dallas, Georgia.
He said, according to the LAPD, that his dad told him he's a man now before giving him $200, a list of homeless shelters in the L.A. area, and put him on a bus to Skid Row.
The teen told detectives that he endured four years of abuse. According to the LAPD:
After removing him from school in the eighth grade, his stepfather, later identified as 48-year-old Paul Matthew Comer, confined him to a room and wouldn't allow him to leave. The young Comer was fed only small quantities of food daily and forced to assume a grueling disciplinary position every day for eight hours with the top of his head against a wall, his fingers interlaced behind his head and his feet raised off the ground. He also had two younger sisters he had almost never seen ...
Cops said the kid wasn't even sure where he lived. But they tracked down the suspect, 48-year-old Comer senior, at the "Appliance Support Team" business he owns in Georgia.
Detectives there went to the family's residence to check out the situation: Paul Comer and mother Sheila Marie were arrested on suspicion of child abuse and false imprisonment, according to the LAPD.
The teen's younger sisters, Catrina and Lya, were taken into protective custody, and the department says the investigation into alleged abuse in the household was ongoing.
Mitch Comer flew back to Georgia to help detectives with the case.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck:
I am greatly relieved and thankful that one of our retired officers brought this victim to our attention and started the process to uncover these heartbreaking circumstances. Without the intervention of retired Sergeant Gonzales, Mitch Comer and his young sisters would still be suffering.