A 17-year-old boy who entered the national spotlight when he ran into a health club half naked, bloodied, bruised and shackled, is in Sutter Tracy Community Hospital today recovering from his many injuries.
His alleged captors, Kelly Layne Lau, 30, and Michael Schumacher, 34, are each being charged with torture, child beating, false imprisonment by violence, conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor and kidnapping. Each is being held in lieu of $1.85 million bail and both are set to appear in court on Thursday.
Police are searching for another suspect, 43-year-old Caren Ramirez, a woman who has lived with the family on and off since earlier this year, according to police. Ramirez faces the same five charges as Schumacher and Lau, and there's a felony warrant out for her arrest. Police believe she'll try to make her way to her brother's house in Palo Alto.
The emaciated 17-year-old shocked employees at the Tracy Boulevard In Shape Fitness Center when he hopped over the brick wall separating the gym parking lot and the family's backyard, picked up the chain padlocked to his ankle and ran weakly to the gym foyer.
Terrified, the teen frantically implored the workers with cries of, "Don't let them get me, don't let them get me," recalled fitness manager Dan Quihuiz.
He was covered in soot and clad in boxer shorts that were "way too big" for his gaunt frame, said witnesses, who first called police at 3:31 p.m. Monday. The boy's hair was matted with some "white gooey stuff, like old pudding," Quihuiz said, and his hair was patchy and bald in some spots, "like someone shaved him just to be mean."
When he ran toward the health club, the boy held the huge chain and a padlock in his hand. One witness said the chain appeared to have been sawed apart in one place. "He was so distraught," said Quihuiz. "He had cuts and blood all over. And he was so skinny. I thought he was 11."
In Shape manager Chuck Ellis took the boy into his office, where the teen curled up in a fetal position, crying and shaking violently. Membership manager Glenna Conway offered the frightened boy her jacket and gave him a banana and some water.
Then, she and Quihuiz went to the next room and cried.
"I was shaken up," Conway said this morning. "It's so sad. I don't know what to make of this. It's like, this kind of thing happens in Tracy?"
The boy was reported as a runaway from a group home in Sacramento about a year and three months ago, according to police.
Monday's eerie event comes on the heels of a similar abuse case in Antioch, when investigators found the body of a 15-year-old girl who had allegedly been locked up by her aunt, the girl's foster parent, for months. The girl was apparently starved and beaten to death.
On Monday night, police obtained a search warrant for the Tracy couple's house at 630 Tennis Lane and found "evidence of abuse," according to Tracy spokesman Matt Robinson.
The family rented the house from a Greg Kent, who has a post office box in Alamo, records show. Lau and Schumacher had lived at the house that abuts the health club parking lot for about two years.
Neighbors said they wondered why the teen never went to school and were always unclear about what his relationship was to Lau and Schumacher, who lived with four young children ages 1 to 9 years old. The other four children were taken by Child Protective Services, which is conducting an investigation into the alleged abuse.
The family, though secretive, appeared normal, Portillo and other neighbors said. On Lau's MySpace page, the self-described Christian gushed about her husband - "a man who I love to death" - her "four beautiful kids" and her "typical life" as a stay-at-home mother in Tracy.
Lau volunteered as a Girl Scout leader, took one of her daughters to ballet lessons and dropped her children off at South/West Park Elementary School every weekday.
The role the 17-year-old boy played in Lau's family remains unclear. But the only time neighbors ever saw the boy was when he was working - taking out the trash, walking the youngest kids in a stroller, mowing the lawn, or otherwise playing Mr. Mom, remembers Portillo and others who live on the same block.
Police have kept quiet about how the boy wound up with Schumacher and Lau.
Police ask that anyone with any information about the case to call the Tracy police at (209) 831-4552.