It’s summer in Detroit, Michigan, and Charles Bothuell IV is being interviewed by the notorious TV journalist Nancy Grace. Despondent, the man stares at the camera, believing that he is there to discuss the search for his missing son. But then Grace makes a shocking revelation, sending the tragedy in an unexpected direction.
The story began back in June 2014, when Charles was living with his wife Monique Dillard-Bothuell in Detroit, MI. With him was his son from a previous relationship, Charles Bothuell V, who had been living with the couple for two years. Sadly, life for the Bothuells was far from perfect.
Apparently, in February 2012, the younger Bothuell attempted to run away from his father’s house. And the following year, a suspicious fire broke out. However, despite the family’s difficulties, the boy continued to live at the Bothuells’ home. But in 2014 things took a sinister turn.
On June 14 of that year, Monique contacted police to report that her 12-year-old stepson was missing. Soon, a large scale hunt was underway. For 11 days, authorities tried desperately to find any trace of the young boy. But even though they visited the Bothuells’ home several times to look for clues, police had no luck solving the mystery.
Then, on June 25, 2014, Charles Bothuell IV made an appearance on Nancy Grace, a current affairs show that used to air on cable channel HLN. A polarizing figure, Grace has found herself in the midst of several controversies over the years – some involving missing children.
In fact, in 2006, Grace faced legal trouble when a young mother, Melinda Duckett, committed suicide soon after appearing on the show. Apparently, Duckett’s son Trenton had gone missing, and Grace had implied that Duckett knew more than she was letting on. And even though the lawsuit against Grace was dismissed, some regarded her as being at least partially responsible for Duckett’s suicide.
Nevertheless, Grace showed no qualms about getting stuck into a missing children’s case once again. And when Bothuell IV appeared on her show, things seemed normal at first. Ostensibly, he planned to use the air time to appeal for information about his missing son. But shortly after the interview began, things took a baffling turn.
In a clip of the interview that can be seen online, Grace turned on Bothuell. Barely concealing the hatred in her voice, she informed the father of the latest twist in the investigation. “Charlie, we are getting reports that your son has been found,” she began. But any hopes for a happy ending were quickly dashed.
As Grace continued, it became clear that things weren’t quite as they seemed. In fact, she revealed that the boy had been found in the father’s own basement, underneath the home that he shared with Dillard-Bothuell. At first, Bothuell appeared shocked, although several commenters took to YouTube to express doubts about the authenticity of his reaction.
Nevertheless, Bothuell claimed to have no idea how his son could have turned up in the basement of his home. Furthermore, he insisted that the area had been thoroughly searched by the authorities. “I checked my basement,” he claimed, “the FBI checked my basement. The police checked my basement. My wife checked my basement. We’ve been down there several times. We’ve all been checking.”
However, police insisted that they had indeed discovered the boy at the property. “We found him barricaded in the basement, behind boxes and a large drum,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig told WXYZ-TV in 2014. “There’s no way he could have erected this makeshift area of concealment.”
Slowly, more details began to emerge about the younger Bothuell’s disappearance – and the tale grew even stranger. Indeed, by July 2014, reports were claiming that the boy had leveled abuse accusations at his father and stepmother. Apparently, they had been forcing him to complete an extreme exercise regime.
According to reports, the boy told investigators that his parents made him lift weights and perform lengthy repetitive exercises. And if he didn’t finish his workout, the boy claimed that he was forced to start again. Meanwhile, police could not understand how his hiding place had not been spotted. As a result, they began to wonder if his captors had moved him from place to place.
Conversely, Mark Magidson, an attorney for Dillard-Bothuell, cast doubt on the claims. “There’s no child abuse,” he is reported to have told the press in 2015. And while Bothuell IV admitted to disciplining his son with a PVC pipe, both he and his wife denied taking part in any further abuse.
Finally, in April 2015, Bothuell IV and his wife were arrested on suspicion of second-degree child abuse and torture. In court, the boy detailed the maltreatment that he had allegedly suffered. “It was a very terrible place to be,” he said. “I was expected to do everything perfectly. I was never given any leeway, to make a mistake and learn from it.”
Meanwhile, Shawn Smith, another defense attorney, questioned why the boy had not sought help – even when police were searching the house. However, Bothuell V claimed that he had been too afraid to call out. Instead, the boy said he had only left his basement hiding place when the house was empty, sneaking upstairs to drink soda and eat snacks.
Then, there came another twist in the tale. According to Smith, the younger Bothuell had signed a worrying statement back in 2014. Apparently, the boy had tried to make his father and stepmother ill by cleaning the dishes with bleach. If the pair fell sick, the boy reasoned, then he would be able to live with his mother instead. However, the boy argued that he had been coerced by Dillard-Bothuell into making the confession.
At some point during the trial, the torture charge against Bothuell IV and his wife was dropped. And eventually, in January 2016, Bothuell IV entered a guilty plea in relation to the allegations of child abuse. Ordered to attend lessons in anger management, he was also sentenced to probation for 18 months.
As part of the proceedings, Bothuell IV also lost custody of his son, who returned to live with his biological mother. Meanwhile, rumors suggested that Dillard-Bothuell had also escaped a harsh punishment, with her record set to be wiped clean before the end of 2016. However, details on the latter case remain unclear.
So what really was the truth about the boy’s disappearance? For those who followed the story as it broke, the situation was a complicated one. However, prosecutors were content that they had done everything possible to help Bothuell V have a normal childhood. “We thought this was an appropriate resolution of the case for him to be able to go on with his life,” spokesperson Maria Miller announced in 2016.