December 1, 2008
A 16-year-old runs into a health club after escaping from his captors
Warning: Some of the details of this article may be considered graphic. Discretion is advised.
The teen, initially named in the press simply as Kyle R., ran into the health club while wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and a shackle around his ankle. He was emaciated, weighing 100 lbs (45 kg) and standing at 5’8” (173 cm). According to a witness in the club, Kyle repeated, “Please, hide me, please, hide me.”
Once police arrived, Kyle explained he had been held captive nearby where he was beaten, burned, and deprived of basic necessities such as food and use of the toilet. The captivity and abuse had occurred for over a year before Kyle’s escape. Kyle named his guardian Caren Ramirez as one of his attackers, as well as her roommates — Michael Schumacher and his wife Kelly Lau — and their neighbor Anthony Waiters. Kyle had been in Ramirez’s care since he was 8 years of age, after his mother left Kyle and his sibling with her.
Kyle detailed the abuse he endured by his captors. On one occasion, Waiters struck Kyle with an aluminum baseball bat. Apparently unsatisfied by the amount of damage inflicted, Lau and Ramirez held Kyle down while Waiters cut the teen’s arm. He “was grinding the knife back and forth,” Kyle recalled. “It hurt.” The cut was then treated by Ramirez and Waiters with bleach, butter, and salt, and wrapped in clear tape; other injuries Kyle received were treated with superglue or wax. On another occasion, the baseball bat was heated in the fireplace until red hot before Kyle was beaten with it. Additionally, Kyle’s pants were lit on fire, he was chained to a coffee table near the fireplace, and he was often beaten unconscious. Kyle said his captors were punishing him for being rude, not performing chores, or being a “problem child.”
Kyle had previously been able to convince Schumacher and Lau’s 2-year-old son to bring him a set of keys which had been left in the house, containing a key to the lock on his leg chain. He kept the key hidden and released himself briefly to get some food but was discovered. He was chained again, to a child’s chair this time, and Ramirez cut his back with a meat cleaver in retaliation. Kyle then decided to escape. “I thought I was probably going to die that night,” Kyle later said. He also recounted how he had overheard Waiters and Schumacher discussing “chopping me up and dumping me in the delta.”
On December 1, Kyle unlocked himself again and ran from the house. He jumped over a fence with the assistance of a trampoline and ran to the health club.
Waiters, Schumacher, Lau, and Ramirez were arrested. All defendants, except Waiters, accepted plea deals for various felonies including the use of a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury to a child. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors withdrew the charges of torture which could have resulted in a sentence of life imprisonment. Each received sentences of at least 30 years in prison.
Waiters’ attorney attempted to prove Kyle could have left the house at any time by noting the teen had a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. The prosecution asked Kyle why he had not tried to fight back, to which he responded there were too many people to fight back against and he had been outweighed.
Waiters was convicted of several charges, including torture, aggravated mayhem, felony child abuse, and false imprisonment. He was sentenced to three life sentences to be served concurrently. He will be eligible for parole in 2022.
Kyle sued the Sacramento County’s Child Protective Services (CPS) for “ignoring signs of abuse for seven years.” According to the complaint, Kyle and his sibling had come to school looking thin, without lunches, and missing patches of hair. While reports were filed, CPS did not follow up on the reports of abuse and neglect. The complaint also noted that, while Kyle was placed in protective custody in April 2007, he was allowed to communicate with Ramirez who “coerced” him to leave CPS custody. He was “reported missing from placement” on May 9, 2007, but there was no further investigation. Kyle was awarded $4 million from the lawsuit.
“We can only hope this lawsuit will bring changes to CPS,” Kyle’s attorney John Demas said in a statement. “Our fear is that there are other ‘Kyles’ out there, suffering abuse that no child should ever endure.”
Of his captors, Kyle said, “I wish them the best with where they are at in life. I hope they find their peace.”
Waiters, Anthony Vincent. CDCR Number: AG3250. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Inmate Locator. Accessed: December 1, 2020. https://inmatelocator.cdcr.ca.gov/Details.aspx?ID=AG3250
Hamilton, Matt. “Tortured, chained child to receive $4 million from county of Sacramento.” Los Angeles Times. July 24, 2015. Accessed: December 1, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-tortured-chained-child-20150723-story.html
“Man Gets Life Sentence In Tracy Shackled Teen Case.” CBS SF BayArea. February 28, 2011. Accessed: December 1, 2020. https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2011/02/28/man-gets-life-sentence-in-tracy-shackled-teen-case/
“Tracy Shackled Teen Sues County Child Protective Services.” CBS SF BayArea. February 9, 2011. Accessed: December 1, 2020. https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2011/02/09/tracy-shackled-teen-sues-county-child-protective-services/
“3 Guilty Of Shackling, Abusing Tracy Teen Could Get 30 Years.” CBS SF BayArea. December 4, 2020. https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2010/12/04/3-guilty-of-shackling-abusing-tracy-teen-could-get-30-years/
Kazmi, Sophia. “Kyle Ramirez takes the witness stand, describes abuses he suffered.” The Mercury News. October 29, 2010. Updated: August 13, 2016. https://www.mercurynews.com/2010/10/29/kyle-ramirez-takes-the-witness-stand-describes-abuses-he-suffered/