Michigan man talks about being held in attic for 5 years as chil - WNEM TV 5

Michigan man talks about being held in attic for 5 years as child

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Source: CNN Source: CNN
Source: CNN Source: CNN

A young man from Detroit is speaking out about surviving years of abuse from his mother and her boyfriend.

"You literally took my soul away from me,” Curtis Miller said.

For the first time since he was rescued, Miller is telling his story. He said his nightmare started when his mom, Susan Bardo, took him away from his dad in Detroit and got a new boyfriend, Carl Pellinen.

To hide, they pulled him out of school and moved to Escanaba.

"To hear that he was with his mom and being abused all that time, that was devastating,” said Miss Parker-Miller, Curtis’ stepmother.

Looking at this school picture of a smiling little boy, you could never image a mom could do things to him that she and her boyfriend are now in prison for.

"I felt like that's when it got crazy,” Miller said.

From the outside, the home he lived in looked like many others in its Upper Peninsula neighborhood. However, behind those doors, Miller lived in unimaginable conditions.

He was beaten, raped by his mom as her boyfriend watched, and from 10-years-old to 15-years-old, for five long years, forced to live alone in an unheated attic.

"I was in prison,” Miller said.

Police said Miller would be left in the attic for 23 hour stretches. Only once a day was he allowed out to eat a meal of rice or oatmeal on the stairs. When they left, to ensure he didn’t leave, they duct taped his legs.

His muscles wasted away.

“When he un-duct taped me to go to the bathroom l literally fell on my knees,” Miller said.

He got one bathroom break a day. He had accidents as he sat bound in duct tape waiting.

"It caused rashes to build up on my body,” Miller said.

He wasn't just a physical prisoner - he was a psychological prisoner.

His mom and her boyfriend convinced him that he had to stay in the attic because outside, people were waiting to kill him. So, when police came knocking on the door, he was terrified.

They took him to a nearby hospital and went to work finding his dad.

"When we first got that phone call I thought this is going to be hell on earth,” Missy Parker-Miller said.

Parker-Miller, who happens to be a social worker, had just married Curtis' dad. They had tried to find him, but always thought his mom while hiding from them was caring for him.

"He was very angry at his birth mother and her boyfriend and he was taking that anger and rage out on everyone around him,” Parker-Miller said.

"I admit when I first came down here I thought everything around me was a threat and I had to protect myself,” Curtis Miller said.

Parker-Miller and Curtis' dad focused on learning how to help him heal and get an education after being out of school for years.

"Because I was isolated for five years my social interaction is awkward - but I continue to embrace life with great enthusiasm,” Miller said.

This year, Miller graduated with a 3.5 GPA from University Prep High and spoke about all he overcame before a crowd.

A crowd that honored him as he was awarded a $10,000 scholarship and named the National Exchange Club's Ace of the Year.

Miller said he wanted to share his story to help other children who have survived abuse - and inspire families to take them in and help them.

He said he is forever grateful his stepmom stood by him. He finally feels loved and safe.

"Whenever I can I show appreciation and respect and gratitude. I tell her thank you for helping me overcome what I went through to get where I am now. I also do that with my dad,” Miller said.

"Children who have been abused, have been hurt and traumatized, they can heal, it is wonderful to see it happen,” Parker-Miller said.

Bardo and Pellinen are now serving 50 years in prison. 

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