The Los Angeles Police Department with the help of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office has made two arrests in the wake of a child abuse case that originated in Dallas.
Just before noon on Sept. 11, two LAPD patrol officers received a call about a possible missing child at a Greyhound Bus Station. When they arrived, they met up with retired LAPD Sgt. Joe Gonzales who was working security for the station. Gonzales directed them to 18-year-old Mitch Comer, whom authorities described as “a pale, gaunt young man of small stature who appeared to be about 12 or 13 years of age.” Later, it was determined he weighed only 87 pounds and stood just over 5 feet tall.
Comer explained that his stepfather had told him he was now a man, gave him $200 and put him on a bus in Jackson, Miss., with a list of homeless shelters he had located on the Internet. Officers took him to LAPD’s Central Station for further questioning and to come up with a temporary housing arrangement.
Later, police took Comer to another station where he met with Detective Dan Gersna. During the interview, Comer provided limited details of the abuse he had endured for at least the past four years. 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.
Complicating matters, Comer wasn’t able to provide his home address to LAPD officers. Though he had resided mostly in Georgia, he apparently also moved to Arizona and possibly other places with his family for periods of time and then returned to Georgia. Fortunately, Gersna learned that the elder Comer ran a home-based appliance business known as “Appliance Support Team,” which eventually led to both a business and driver’s license that revealed Comer’s residential address. At that point, Gersna contacted Detective A. J. Simonelli of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Department in Georgia.
Gersna shared what he had learned from the young Comer, including that he apparently had two siblings still living at home. Detectives Simonelli and Kevin Morgan immediately went to their address and found Comer’s stepfather and mother, 39-year-old Sheila Marie Comer. Both parents were taken to the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office for interviews and subsequently arrested for charges related to child abuse and false imprisonment. Detectives also put Mitch Comer’s younger sisters, Catrina and Lya, into protective custody with Paulding County Department of Family and Children Services.
Paulding authorities say Mitch Comer’s sisters had not seen him in more than two years and did not even know what color his hair ways.
After staying briefly in a Los Angeles board and care home, Mitch Comer flew back Wednesday to where he’d been living in Dallas to participate in the case investigation and legal proceedings against his parents.
“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,” Chief Charlie Beck said in an LAPD news release. “Without the intervention of retired Sgt. Gonzales, Mitch Comer and his young sisters would still be suffering.”
Paul and Sheila Comer each face six charges of cruelty to children and one charge of false imprisonment, according to PCSO records. Their inmate reports are attached to this article.
Paulding authorities say the case remains active, and more charges could be pending.
The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office is working in conjunction with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on this case. Anyone with information on this case or is familiar with the Comer family is urged to contact the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office Crimes Against Children Division at 770-445-6105.
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