Los Angeles Police Department detectives have been instrumental in
exposing a bizarre and tragic case of child abuse that started in
Georgia and ended in a Los Angeles bus station.
Just before noon on Sept. 11 of this year, two LAPD Newton Area patrol officers received a call about a possible missing child at a Greyhound Bus Station on East 7th Street. When they arrived, they met up with retired LAPD Sergeant Joe Gonzales who was working security for the station. Gonzales directed them to 18-year-old Mitch Comer…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. His story was most unusual.
Comer explained that his stepfather had told him he was now a man, given him $200 and put him on a bus in Jackson, Miss., with a list of homeless shelters he had located on the Internet. Incredulous that the childlike Comer was actually an adult, the 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 the Newton 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. He also had two younger sisters he had almost never seen, and authorities expect additional charges on the case may surface as investigation progresses.
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, Detective 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, Detective Gersna contacted Detective A. J. Simonelli of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Department in Georgia.
Detective 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 located Comer’s stepfather and mother, Sheila Marie Comer. Both parents were taken to the Paulding County Sheriff’s Station 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 Children’s Services.
After staying briefly in a Los Angeles board and care home, Mitch Comer flew back to where he’d been living in Dallas, Ga., on Sept. 19 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,” said Chief Charlie Beck. “Without the intervention of retired Sergeant Gonzales, Mitch Comer and his young sisters would still be suffering.”
Anyone with information about this case may contact LAPD Newton Detectives at 323-846-6556 or the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office Crimes Against Children Division at 770-445-6105. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.
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