ZEARING, Iowa (AP) — Four members of a rural Iowa family are accused of kidnapping and abusing an 18-year-old relative who was handcuffed to a bed and beaten so severely that he suffered brain hemorrhages and multiple rib fractures, according to court documents He was so malnourished that he weighed just 70 pounds (32 kilograms) when he was admitted to the hospital earlier this year.

Gary Graham Jr., 44, Danielle Graham, 42, Aaron Williams, 20, and a 16-year-old girl, all of Zearing, Iowa, were charged Monday with first-degree kidnapping and malicious wounding. All four face a preliminary hearing on March 29. Court records show a judge issued an order banning them from contact with the alleged victim. The teenager is being charged as an adult, but the Associated Press is not identifying her by name because of her age.

A supervisor with the public defender’s office for Story County said defense attorneys would be assigned, but that has not happened yet.

The house is at the end of a residential street in Zearing, a community of 500 residents about 50 miles north of Des Moines. Farmland, windmills and dirt roads are nearby. Stickers decorated the front and side doors of the ranch-style house, and Christmas lights still hung from the roof. A dog barked inside, but no one answered when a reporter knocked on the door.

The allegations stunned the community, Story County Sheriff’s Capt. Nicholas Lennie said Tuesday.

“It’s tragic. “It’s sending our entire region into shock, and rightly so,” Lennie said. “It is not common for one person to treat another like this, let alone a family member. “Unfortunately, the victim in this case endured months of abuse and was held in what most of us consider to be our safe place – our home.”

Court documents do not specify the teen’s relationship to other family members, but a search warrant application said Gary Graham Jr. was not the teen’s biological father. Lennie declined to comment on the specifics.

The teenager has now been released from the hospital but is “still recovering and will be for quite some time,” Lennie said.

A hospital in Ames alerted the sheriff’s office on Jan. 27 about an 18-year-old patient who was severely malnourished and had multiple injuries, including bleeding on the brain, broken ribs and bruises and wounds throughout his body. An affidavit filed in the case said the teen arrived at the hospital in a “semiconscious to unconscious state.”

Medical staff noted that the injuries were in various stages of healing, indicating they did not all occur at the same time, the document said.

Danielle Graham told police that the teen left home in November after turning 18 and was not heard from until he showed up at the house on Jan. 26 in such bad condition that she feared he was he would die, the court document said. She said she and Williams drove the teen to the hospital.

However, the affidavit said a search warrant turned up cell phone messages, videos and photos showing the 18-year-old never left the house and was abused by his relatives.

The teen told investigators he was physically abused by Gary Graham Jr. and Williams. He said he was handcuffed to the bed at night and often during the day and no one helped him. Police said an Amazon.com order under Danielle Graham’s account shows the purchase and delivery of handcuffs, restraints and a handcuff key.

In the search warrant application, an officer wrote that a guidance counselor said the teen had completed his schooling online — but appeared to be trying to attend classes in person.

The counselor provided police with an email dated Oct. 19 in which the teen asked the counselor to “email my mom and ask if I can come to school for class,” adding: ” Don’t say it was my idea, please and thank you.”

A week later, the teen wrote to the counselor again, writing, “You won’t let me go unless necessary,” followed by “Can you require me to go to school,” the search application said.

Court records show Gary Graham Jr. spent two years in prison after a conviction for domestic violence, the second offense in 2009. Additionally, in 2017, Gary Graham Jr.’s divorce agreement with another woman was amended to give the woman sole custody of a child “due to the abuse committed by Graham.”


Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri. Summer Ballentine in Columbia, Missouri, contributed to this report.

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