PORTAGE, Wis. – Three people were in custody Saturday after police, acting on a tip, discovered a 2-year-old girl missing from Florida, an apparently tortured 11-year-old boy locked in a closet and the boy's mother buried in the backyard of a Wisconsin home.
Two women living in the home — Candace Clark, 23, and Michaela Clerc, 20 — were arrested on charges of obstruction of justice and physical abuse of a child.
Three other children were found in the home Thursday. Two of them — ages 3 months and 1 year — are daughters of Clark, along with a 2-year-old girl who was taken from foster care in Florida in October. Another girl, 15, was also the daughter of a woman whose body was found in the backyard.
The 35-year-old woman's body was found at 2:20 p.m. Friday. Her children had reported her missing around Memorial Day. The daughter said after lengthy questioning Thursday that her mother might have been buried.
According to police, a group of four adults, including the dead woman, and five children had lived at the home since February. Before that, the group lived in many states, including Florida, Tennessee, Maine and Colorado, and had stayed in motels in the Wisconsin Dells area. Police were originally called to the home Thursday afternoon on a report from Florida that an abducted 2-year-old girl could be living there with her mother.
Clerc and Clark, who allegedly stole the 2-year-old from foster care in Lake County, Fla., were arrested, the Portage Daily Register reported. Police later took Michael Sisk, 25, into custody from a Greyhound bus depot, but he was not charged.
Police initially took Clerc, Clark and the four girls in for questioning. The children then told police that there was another boy at the home locked in a closet.
The condition of the 11-year-old resembled pictures of those coming out of concentration camps at the end of World War II, Columbia County District Attorney Jane Kohlwey said.
"It's horrible what we're seeing," she said.
Police returned to the house and found the 11-year-old locked in the closet and covered with severe burns. Hahn told the Daily Register the boy had been tortured and burned with scalding and boiling water as punishment for failing to clean. It appeared he was regularly locked in the closet.
Some of the injuries appear to have been infliced since before Memorial day, indicating perhaps the murder victim had been involved in the torture of the child.
The boy was taken by medical helicopter to the University of Wisconisn Hospital. He was malnourished and remained in guarded condition at the hospital. Hahn said the boy had not been given medical care or education.
Only the boy appeared to be victim of serial physical abuse, officials said, but the 3-month-old girl appeared to be malnourished.
Pictures shown to reporters, but not for publication, showed apparent burns on top of the boy's head with blistering and mangled feet and hands.
"Lt. (Tom) Moore was at the scene and said it was the worst he'd seen in 36 years," the chief said. "It's the worst I've seen in 30."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.