Couple allegedly hid food from 72-pound malnourished boy

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CARMEL, Ind. (WTTV) — New court documents allege a Carmel couple not only neglected a teenager, but forced him to do physical exercise as punishment and hid food from him.

Police arrested Brandee and Quantae Johnson. The couple have been charged with felony child neglect.

Court documents detail a horrifying and dangerous situation, that officers say could have killed at least two children.

It started when those officers found a runaway teenager, who told them he'd been hanging around the Kroger on Rangeline Road, where he hid in bushes with a box over his head during severe weather.

The teen weighed only 72 pounds, and was admitted to the hospital for malnutrition, where he told officers that the Johnsons had been abusing him.

When police interviewed the couple, according to the documents, they admitted to making the teen "wear his underwear around the house or ... wear his sister's clothes" to try and keep him from running away.

They also said they made him "engaged in physical exercise: sit ups, push-ups, etc." and hid food from him because "he has stolen food to eat from dumpsters and the trash can."

Two doctors who evaluated the teen told police he was malnourished and severely underweight. One said, "he is the victim of child abuse and neglect."

Police took six children out of the couple's custody. In addition to the teen, another child was admitted to the hospital for malnutrition. The two have since been released and are being monitored by doctors.

Sandy Runkle, with Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said that if anyone saw the teen around Kroger and thought something wasn't right, they'd be obligated to call police.

"(It's about) just being aware and kind of listening to your gut, that if something doesn't feel right, to kind of go with that," Runkle said.

She hoped this case does more than just shock people; that is wakes us all up to the fact that child abuse can happen anywhere, and it takes everyone to spot it and put it to an end.

"Maybe it'll get people to become more educated around the issue of child maltreatment, and that in itself would be huge help," Runkle said.

Indiana's Department of Child Services offers a free online tutorial in spotting and reporting child abuse. You can watch that tutorial at the link here.

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