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Paulding Co. parents charged with child abuse expect to plead not guilty

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Paul and Sheila Comer Paul and Sheila Comer
PAULDING COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

A lawyer for a Georgia man accused of sending his emaciated teenage stepson to Los Angles says his client intends to plead not guilty.

Paul Matthew Comer's attorney, W. Scott Smith, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his client is cooperating with authorities.

When 18-year-old Mitch Comer arrived in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 11, he weighed only 87 pounds.

That's where retired LAPD Sgt. Joe Gonzales, who was working security at the bus station, found Comer looking dazed and disoriented.

Gonzales called police about a possible missing child and directed them to Comer. Police said he was pale, gaunt and appeared to be about 12 or 13 years old.

That's when the tales of abuse and neglect came pouring out.

Comer explained to police that his father, Comer, 48, had told him he was now a man and put him on a bus in Jackson, MS, with $200 and a list of homeless shelters he found on the Internet.

Officers took Mitch Comer to a temporary housing center to speak with him further.

Mitch Comer told police that for the past four years, he had been abused by his father and his mother, Sheila Comer.

While in Georgia, Mitch Comer said that his father removed him from school when he was in the eighth grade.

After he was taken out of school, his parents confined him to a room for eight hours every day, forcing him into a position where he had to keep the top of his head against a wall, his hands folded behind his head and his feet off the floor, according to police.

Aside from the confinement, the 18-year-old was only fed small amounts of food each day. Because he lived in isolation, his two younger sisters, ages 11 and 13, hadn't seen him for two years and couldn't even tell police the color of their brother's hair.

After speaking with LAPD investigators about the allegations, Paulding County detectives went to the Comer's home in Dallas, GA.

Once detectives interviewed Paul and Sheila Comer, they were arrested and charged with six counts of cruelty to children and one count of false imprisonment. More charges could be filed against them, according to the Paulding County Sheriff's Office. Both are being held without bond.

After spending about a month in a Los Angeles care home, Mitch Comer flew back to Georgia on Sept. 19 to help the Paulding County Sheriff's Office with the investigation.

On Friday, agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant at the home on Vivid Lane where investigators said the abuse took place.

Neighbors were shocked to hear of the allegations against the Comers.

"I have pets I take better care of," said Richard Singletary, who lives nearby.

Singletary is one of a number of people in the neighborhood who said they couldn't believe the accusations.

"When you look at it being a human being and being (possibly) your own blood, putting it in that perspective, it is outrageous," he said.

Andrew Crank, another neighbor, said he didn't even know Mitch Comer lived at the home.

"I wish I would have known he was there," Crank said. "I would have given him anything I could."

Detectives said Mitch Comer is staying in an undisclosed location. The Division of Family and Children Services has custody of his sisters.

Investigators said it appeared that the children had not been to school in years.

An Oct. 4 court hearing is set for the couple.

Stay with CBSAtlanta.com for updates on this story.

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