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Crown Ward Battered and Muzzled

February 28, 2009 permalink

The Hamilton Spectator gives a biography of a former crown ward recently in the news because he was abducted and abused for three weeks by neighbors. Even after age of majority, the man and his family are forbidden to speak his name in public.



crown ward
The Hamilton Spectator Handout Photo

Torture victim leads forgotten existence

Jackson Hayes, The Hamilton Spectator, (Feb 28, 2009)

Everyone seems to forget him.

He is peaceful and nice, a young man who likes video games.

But who is perhaps a little too trusting.

He is good with his hands and "can fix anything if you show him how."

He lives a quiet existence in a basement apartment.

As a boy, he was cared for by professionals, because mom couldn't take care of him.

As a teen, he bounced through foster homes from Kitchener to Durham.

And as an adult, he left the councillors' watchful gaze and was left to his own devices in Hamilton.

In early January, he was lured by a group of young people to a nearby apartment.

Police say he was held captive for three weeks, brutally beaten, repeatedly burned and even forced to eat feces.

During that time, no one reported him missing.

And now, because of a court-imposed publication ban, the man people have been forgetting for years can't even be named.

Everyone seems to forget him - but this is his story.

The epileptic seizures that plague him started when he was just four months old.

His mother said it was horrible watching her first-born son turn blue and pass out as many as six times a day.

Mom, who also cannot be named to protect her son's identity, said he would eventually learn from his pain.

"Every epileptic has an aura before their seizure. Some people smell burnt toast, some people smell oranges, some people have a sensation," she explained.

He saw spots in his eyes.

"He would be able to warn me and say 'Mom, Mom, my eyes,' so I would know he was going to have a seizure."

His grandmother said it would break her heart.

The exhausting seizures and the naps that followed meant less time outside with the other kids, fewer chances to make friends.

The boy's behaviour changed as he grew up: more violent and argumentative. The attention deficit disorder was diagnosed at five and the learning disabilities became more prevalent.

The "ongoing battle" continued after a move from Peterborough to the Oshawa area in the spring of 1994. Angry outbursts, continued seizures and depleting patience resulted in stints at a behavioural home, first for 30 days and later for three months.

Thrice weekly therapy sessions followed, but Mom said they did little to curb his behaviour.

She came home one night when he was 9 and found him outside the bathroom with a steak knife in his hand. The terrified babysitter and the baby brother were locked inside.

Dad was in the picture, but "in no shape to look after him" so Mom made the decision.

"He needed help and he wasn't getting it, so the only thing I could do was abandon him."

He became a ward of the state at age 10. The Durham Children's Aid Society, which would be his charge until adulthood, placed him in foster care, which Mom said didn't last.

Mom and his brother left for Alberta a short time later. She kept in touch over the phone and Grandma and Dad were in and out throughout the years.

It was assisted living until he was moved to a Kitchener foster home as a teenager.

Richard Lutman was his foster dad for about a year. He said this case illustrates what can happen when a ward grows too old for care.

Lutman said this teen, with the intellectual capacity of someone much younger, was assessed prior to his release to determine what services he would require as an adult.

Confidentiality rules preclude Lutman from detailing the man's exact level of cognition. But Lutman thinks this is an unfortunate grey area case: when a client scores too high for assistance, but may not be capable of making it on his own.

"It's sad, because you see clients like (the victim) who are excelling so well in a supportive living environment," he said recently. "Then you see them get out on their own and you see them fall through the cracks."

The young man, now in his early 20s, decided to move to Hamilton. He had grown fond of Steeltown when he was in the area during a previous foster arrangement, and came here against Lutman's better judgment.

His foster dad felt staying in Kitchener, where there was a support system, was a better move.

Durham CAS set him up with housing, a monthly disability payment and directed him to the multitude of social programs offered in the city. No one can confirm if he used them.

Soon he was a face in the crowd; one of 14,989 people in this city surviving on provincial assistance.

His basement apartment, like him, is easy to miss. A narrow corridor leads from the front of the two-storey red brick home down the left side to his door. There is no welcome mat. There is no doorbell. No mail in his box.

The only marker of his residence and his life there is the number "3" screwed sideways into the door, with a black drywall screw.

His landlord said he lived there for about a year and calls him a "very nice boy," but admits she doesn't know much about him.

His neighbour Bob has lived upstairs since September and describes him the same way everyone else does: "He is a good kid, but he was easily led. He should have been in a place where someone looks after him."

Bob said he noticed his downstairs neighbour hadn't been hanging around outside for a few weeks. He didn't think much of it and forgot about him.

The house that police rescued him from about two weeks ago sits in the shadow of the escarpment and is a few hundred metres from his apartment. The two addresses are split by a few blocks of faded homes and the Claremont Access.

His alleged captors had lived there since two of them were evicted in July from a rooming house on Wilson Street.

How their lives became entangled remains a mystery. Geographically and socially they ran in the same circles: young, receiving disability payments, surviving on their own and with a lot of time on their hands.

Both the victim and one of the suspects were "known peripherally" to downtown's Living Rock Ministry. Perhaps it was a run-in at a neighbourhood bar or a chance meeting at a food bank that set fate in motion.

Police say he was near death when they stumbled upon him in the garbage-strewn Corktown apartment.

Bloody, beaten, bruised and with "toxified" blood, his skull was fractured and he had burns all over his body.

Beyond the physical assault was the indignity he told Mom about. Through tears she said her son was tied up and forced to eat feces.

Mom feels even worse because she talked to him during the ordeal. He said he had been knocked around, but his "friends" were with him now. Mom thinks he didn't talk because the captors were in the room and he was scared.

Grandma cries when she talks about it.

He is out of hospital now and recovering. Mom talks to him regularly, but is worried about his emotional state.

She says police have found him a safe place and are looking out for him.

There is still no family here.

The knocks on his door go unanswered and his cellphone rings, but no one picks up. He has again become another face in the crowd, now perhaps a little less trusting - and a little less forgotten?, 905-526-3283

Source: Hamilton Spectator