Gregory Jean Jr 13, was reportedly had been missing for four years was found by police in a secret cavity in the garage of his father’s home in Jonesboro, Georgia
A 13-year-old boy held captive by his dad and step-mother has spoken for the first time of the four years he was pressed into work as a ‘mule’ in their home, cut off from family and the outside world.
Police found Gregory Jean Jr hidden behind a false wall, a captive in his father’s house, but for four years. Authorities were not searching for the boy because they did not know he was missing.
Child services reportedly knew but were unsure where to look. His school in Atlanta knew something was not right. They lost track after his dad and stepmother withdrew Gregory, supposedly for home schooling.
A case of exploiting the the ill-opportuned. His father, Gregory Jean Sr, and stepmother, Samantha Davis, allegedly kept him to avoid paying child support to his biological mother, Lisa Smith, possibly believing that the boy’s biological mother Lisa Smith, was unlikely to raise a fuss with law enforcement.
Smith, 38, an immigrant from Haiti, lived some 400 miles to the south in Florida. She alerted child services but did not notify police, being unfamiliar with the system and possibly because she was afraid to do so.
Jean Jr went missing in 2010, when he went to see his father and never returned. His mother did not involve law enforcement.
The boy’s father, Gregory Jean, [left], and his wife Samantha Davis, [right], allegedly held Jean Jr captive to save support payments
Incredibly the teen orchestrated his escape, using technology. The 13-year-old reportedly engineered his own rescue with a little quick thinking.
Cops say he managed to Facebook friend request his mom by connecting a cell phone without a service provider to a wifi network. Then he downloaded an app that allowed him to make calls via wifi and began planning his escape with his mom and sister.
Sending his mother a Facebook friend request – four years after she presumed him missing – triggered the police search that eventually led to his rescue.
After he had been rescued, Gregory said he was beaten with a stick, humiliated, forced to work as a maid, banned from celebrating Christmas, and isolated from his alleged captor family and the outside world.
The home in Jonesboro, Georgia where Gregory Jean Jr was held captive for 4 years
The ingenious teen had to connect a cell phone without a service provider to a wifi network, then download an app that enabled calls via wifi: “I just went on [Google] Play Store and I downloaded an app called Magic Jack and I called my mom,” he later told reporters.
He sent the address and a picture of the house in Clayton county, near Atlanta to family in Florida. Police visited last Friday but left after Gregory’s father and stepmother said they had not seen him in years and suggested he was in New York.
“There was a lot of deception,” Clayton county police sergeant Joanne Southerland told a press conference later. “They denied, but no physical obstruction.”
Smith called police again with more details of his location inside the house – supplied in real time by texts from Gregory.
Young Gregory was found early Saturday behind a false wall in a linen cupboard in the attic of the garage, a tight nook between insulation and wooden beams: “I was so grateful to the police officers when they found me,” the boy said later.
“I kept saying, ‘thank you, thank you’.”
Lisa Smith hugs her son Gregory Jean Jr as they’re reunited 4 years after she declared him missing
Lisa Smith and her daughter, Tracy Guervil, 19, drove through the night from Orlando to Jonesboro, Georgia, to be reunited with him. The scene of them hugging and weeping melted hearts across the United States. “It feels good,” said Smith. “It was too long.”
Gregory, wearing a bobble hat and brilliant smile, expressed festive spirit. “This is my mama’s Christmas gift – my whole family – this is their Christmas gift.”
On Sunday a judge remanded Jean, 37, and Davis, 42, in custody. They have been charged with child cruelty and false imprisonment, felony offences. It emerged that Davis was on probation for cutting her biological son’s tongue with a pair of hot scissors in 2004.
Gregory’s ordeal began in 2010 when his mother let him and his younger brother Samuel, now 12, visit their father, from whom she had separated, at his new home in Georgia.
Samuel returned to Florida but Davis insisted that Gregory stay, he said.
Smith and Jean had never married and had an informal deal for child maintenance payments. Keeping Gregory in Georgia appeared to be a way to save on these payments.
Initially, Gregory’s treatment was decent, he said, and he attended Point Middle School in Atlanta like a normal child.
Jean Jr and his sister Tracy Guervil, at home in Florida after his dramatic rescue
But over time, his stepmother allegedly worked him like domestic help, making him clean the house and yard and beating him with a stick if she was unhappy with the results. He said he often went without food, was forced to use a bucket as a toilet while others watched, and could not watch television or celebrate Christmas with her three biological children. He slept on a cot in the garage.
When he complained to a school counsellor, school staff visited the home. His father and stepmother allegedly concealed the cot and bucket and put on a show that all was normal. Afterward, they punished Gregory and withdrew him from school for supposed home schooling, which mainly entailed writing out words from a dictionary.
The youth said he was scared of Davis to seek outside help: “She said you got to do what you got to do. She told me she had been in jail before but she never told me what for. She said she got crazy and not to mess with her when she was feeling bad.”
Although he was allowed calls to his mother a few times a year, he had to put the phone on speaker and was coached on what to say.
Lisa Smith who earlier told CBS46 she had spoken to her son a few times during the four-year period he was missing and said their emotional reunion ‘feels good.’ She now has custody of Gregory, she said.
She’s now a U.S. citizen, she added, but refused to comment on why she had not reported her son missing. Remarkably Jean Jr has urged mercy for his father and stepmom, he does not want them jailed: “I just want to be free to live my life and let them live theirs.” He would like to become a lawyer to help others, he said. His advice to other children whose cries for help go unheard: “Stay strong, hold on.”
Clayton County police chief Gregory Porter sounded less forgiving: “No one should have been in that area where we found the victim.”