Parents arrested after son, 16, found chained to wall
PORT CHARLOTTE -- Rachel Blow admits that chaining her 16-year-old son to a bedroom wall to restrain him from being violent and running away from home was a bad idea.
But, Rachel said, she ran out of good ideas a long time ago.
Rachel, 37, and her husband, William Blow, 45, are charged with aggravated child abuse after Charlotte County sheriff's deputies found her teenage son chained to a wall in their Martin Drive home Monday afternoon.
Both were released on bond Tuesday afternoon -- Rachel on $750; William on $2,500.
Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony that can result in a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
In the gathering dusk Tuesday, a despondent Rachel Blow stood on her doorstep and defended an action she acknowledged will appear extreme, if not horrific, to many, but will also strike a familiar chord with frustrated parents who feel they have few options in dealing with disruptive teens.
"When you have a kid that you have absolutely no control over and you're trying to protect him from alcohol, drugs and violence, you have to do what you can do to keep him from harm," she said.
According to incident reports released by the Sheriff's Office, deputies were called at 7:48 p.m. Monday by firefighters at Fire & EMS Station 1, 3631 Tamiami Trail, after the teen's 17-year-old sister told them her brother was being abused by their stepfather.
The girl showed firefighters pictures of her brother with a chain around his ankle and a handcuff around his wrist. The handcuff was shackled to a wall.
When deputies arrived at the fire station, the girl led them to 136 Martin Drive. There, they encountered William Blow in the driveway. He accompanied deputies into the home and led them to his stepson's bedroom.
"Upon opening the bedroom door, I observed (the boy) lying on a mattress on the floor," Deputy J. Waterhouse wrote in his report. "He had a chain wrapped around his ankle secured with a padlock."
Waterhouse said the ankle and wrist chains were attached to a metal handcuff which was "secured to the baseboard of the wall by an eyebolt securely fastened by a padlock."
Waterhouse photographed the teen before releasing him with keys found in a desk in William and Rachel's bedroom.
At this point, Waterhouse said, he arrested William for child abuse. As her husband was being handcuffed, deputies say Rachel asked
why he was being arrested.
According to Waterhouse, Rachel said, "There was nothing wrong with what William did and she had even spoken with (state Department of Children and Family Services) about this before."
Waterhouse continued: "Rachel further stated, 'What are we supposed to do with him then, because he gets in trouble and runs away from home.'"
After Waterhouse placed William in his patrol car, he returned to the home and arrested Rachel.
With the Blows secured in patrol cars, Waterhouse said he spoke further with the boy and took photos of the house.
Waterhouse said the chains that restrained the teen were long enough to allow him to get to a bathroom and about 4 feet down a hallway.
With the chains' keys in a desk drawer on the opposite end of the house, Waterhouse wrote, "If there ever was a fire or another emergency within the residence and (the boy) had to get out of the house, he would not have been able to since the keys to the locks were too far away."
The 16-year-old was turned over to the DCF, and child protective investigator Barbara Procino was alerted of the incident, the report shows.
According to subsequent statements, the incident began Monday morning when the boy walked away from Charlotte High School to avoid a fight.
He was returned to the campus by a school resource officer and turned over to William Blow around noon.
The boy's sister alleges her stepfather took the teen to a job site where he chained the boy to a trailer while he worked.
When they arrived home about 5 p.m., William chained the boy to the wall in his bedroom, according to his sister.
His sister later alerted firefighters at nearby Station 1 of what was happening in her home, prompting a response from deputies.
Rachel said her husband called her as he was en route to pick the boy up at the high school.
"'What do you want me to do?'" she recalled him asking. "I told him, 'If you need to, tie him to a chair so he can't take off.'"
Rachel said this was the first time she and William took such extreme measures with their son, but she felt overwhelmed and out of options.
"This all started a long time ago," she said. "It's been a combination of many things: rebellion, wanting freedom, too immature. It's been getting worse and worse. It's even gotten to the point where I'm afraid to be here alone with him at night. He's had me against the wall with a knife at my throat."
Rachel, supported by her oldest daughter, Jessica Van Effen, 19, said the family has been torn apart by her son's actions for nearly two years.
She said her son has been through drug and alcohol counseling, anger management and mental health counseling. They've all attended family counseling, Rachel said.
She said the boy has had "encounters" with law enforcement officials and has run away on several occasions.
"He's left for days at a time," Jessica said.
Rachel said reporting the teen as a runaway has prompted an apathetic response from the Sheriff's Office, and said the DCF "is no help" in offering real-world assistance in helping parents control wayward teens.
"We've tried everything," Rachel said. "At one time last year, I e-mailed (television talk show host) Montel Williams asking for help. I got
"They never would do anything to hurt us," Jessica said of her mother and stepfather.
Rachel said her younger daughter has contributed to her son's problems by allying herself with him against their family. A Charlotte High student who turns 18 in January, she is "living with friends" and not welcome home, Rachel said.
"Both of them lied in the police report. All lies. They just flat-out lied," she said.
"(My sister) blew everything out of proportion," Jessica said.
Rachel is employed by the Charlotte County Community Services. William is a painter who owns William Blow Enterprises.
Rachel fears the bad publicity and inevitable public outcry against them will cause her to lose her job and cripple her husband's business.
Her family, she said, has been irrevocably destroyed.
Tuesday evening, she had no idea where her son was. She was expecting a phone call from the DFC, Rachel said.
Wherever he is, she said, he can stay there. "We don't want him here," she said. "This is the final line."
Rachel said she will "look into" legal emancipation for her son, but it's not likely the teen will meet state requirements for that designation.
Until then, she said, her fractured family will brace for the legal fallout.
"My capacity to control him is gone," she said. "The last six months, he's done anything he wanted to do and there's been nothing we can do to
control him. I don't know what we're supposed to do."
Chains were not the solution, she admitted, but what is?
"How can the parents be responsible and then persecuted for trying to protect their kids?" Rachel asked.
You can e-mail John Haughey at email@example.com.
By JOHN HAUGHEY
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09-24-2005, 11:45 AM #1
Unthinkable!!!!!09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
"Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
10-11-2005, 01:41 PM #2
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- Sep 2005
If the parents speak the truth....
If I'm reading this right, then the final straw was when the kid left campus to avoid a fight? The same kid that held a knife to his parents throat. If they are speaking the truth, then it sounds to me like he was making headway and should have been praised for knowing his limitations and walking away. Granted he should have stayed on campus, but it was a start...
Makes you thankful for your own small communication problems raising your own kids and makes you hope you are doing the right thing. They thought they were.
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