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Updated: 9:05 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 | Posted: 5:17 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, 2012

Police: ‘We have every reason to believe’ teen held in captivity



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paulding comer photo
Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com
Paulding County Sheriff deputies waits outside the the home of Paul and Shelia Comer in Dallas on Friday.
comer search photo
Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com
Officials search a van parked in the driveway of Paul and Shelia Comer in Dallas.

By Alexis Stevens

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Local, state and federal investigators spent three hours Friday night inside the Paulding County home where a teenager says he was held captive for several years. Though specific findings weren’t released, the investigators gathered enough information to confirm the 18-year-old’s claims.

“We have corroborated some of the stories Mitch has told us,” Cpl. Ashley Henson with the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office said Friday night. “We have every reason to believe that what Mitch told us was accurate.”

What Mitch Comer has already told investigators is horrifying. On Sept. 8, one day after his 18th birthday, Mitch Comer’s stepfather drove him to a Louisiana bus station, where he handed him money and some pamphlets from a homeless shelter and told the boy never to return home, according to police. Mitch Comer was put on a bus to California.

On Sept. 11, the emaciated teenager was found wandering around a bus station. The following day, Mitch’s stepfather Paul Matthew Comer and mother Sheila Marie Comer were arrested at their Paulding County home.

Mitch, who police said weighs about 90 pounds and appears much younger than 18, was spotted by a Los Angeles security guard.

The teen was disoriented and confused, investigators have said. He was unsure of his address, but was able to provide California police with enough information to place him in Georgia, and Paulding County deputies made a trip out west to continue the investigation.

As some neighbors on the quiet street looked on Friday night, investigators entered the two-story home rented by the Comers. It was in a darkened bedroom of the home near Dallas where Mitch told police he was forced to spend at least three years, according to investigators.

Even the teenager’s own sisters told investigators they didn’t know what color hair their brother had, according to police. From the outside, the home looks like any other on the street, with its stacked stone, bricks and a large grill on the front porch.

But investigators say that inside, the parents were hiding a horrifying secret.

Paul and Sheila Comer have each been charged with six counts of cruelty to children and one count of false imprisonment. They were booked into Paulding County jail, where they remained Friday without bond, Henson said.

Investigators believe Mitch was being held in a bedroom in the home. Specific details about the room were not released, but Henson said the window was not painted and there weren’t additional locks on the door. Still, investigators have not ruled out whether the room was altered once Paul Comer allegedly left the home with Mitch on Sept. 8.

Mitch was returned to Georgia on Thursday and is doing well, Henson said. The teenager has an appetite and is surprisingly courteous and polite, considering the ordeal investigators believe he has lived through, Henson said.

Mitch has asked police for a pair of glasses, explaining that his previous pair had been taken from him years before, Henson said. Mitch is with one foster family while his two sisters, ages 11 and 13, are with another, Henson said.

While additional charges are expected, it will likely be next week before those charges are added, Henson said. The sisters both appeared to be malnourished and have never attended school, he said.

A spokeswoman for the Cherokee County school system told Channel 2 Action News that Mitch Comer was enrolled from October 2007 through April 2009 in two different middle schools. Investigators do not believe he has attended school since that time.

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