STOCKTON — One year ago this week, a 16-year-old boy identified as Kyle R. tumbled over a Tracy sound wall to freedom after more than a year of what is alleged to have been a case of perverse torture.
Wearing only a chain around one ankle and a pair of boxer shorts, Kyle was emaciated, covered in soot, cuts, bruises and burns.
Escaping from the Tennis Lane home, he ran inside Tracy's In-Shape Sports Club.
"Can you help me?" he asked an employee. "Hide me, hide me, hide me."
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The event captured headlines across the state. Many gruesome details of Kyle's alleged captivity and abuse have become public. Yet questions remain how this could have happened in an apparently quiet and normal neighborhood.
One year later, four people charged in the alleged captivity and torture await trial, which is expected to begin in October. The charges make them eligible for life imprisonment.
They are: Michael Schumacher, 35; his wife, Kelly Lau, 31; their next-door neighbor, Anthony Waiters, 30; and Kyle's onetime caretaker, Caren Ramirez, 44.
Since their arrests in the days after Kyle escaped, they have been indicted by a San Joaquin County criminal grand jury on charges of torture, aggravated mayhem, corporal injury, criminal threats and child abuse.
Kyle told the grand jury that he was chained to the fireplace, beaten, burned, starved and drugged. Once, an abuser allegedly poured lighter fluid on him and made him sit in it. He was cut only to have salt poured in the wound, court papers say.
"Just — most of this stuff — I don't have an answer or why there were actions for this," Kyle told the grand jury.
Attorneys for Schumacher and Waiters have challenged the torture claims, saying there is no legal basis for the charge. San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Terrence Van Oss refused to dismiss the charges.
"There's no explanation for it other than the pleasure he got out of it," Van Oss said of Waiters in a recent court hearing. Some people get "perverse pleasure" out of another's pain, the judge said.
Attorneys and parties involved are bound by a gag order from talking about the case to the media.
San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Angela Hayes has called the alleged crimes "sadistic." The four defendants remain held at the San Joaquin County Jail.
Kyle's whereabouts remain a secret to protect the boy and allow him to live a normal life. Officials have not made a picture of him public. If the four are tried, it is likely that he will testify in open court.