Police defend fast-food stop for Michigan boy held in basement

By Serena Maria Daniels

By Serena Maria Daniels

DETROIT (Reuters) - A Detroit police officer defended her decision to stop for fast food for an emaciated boy found in a basement, at a court hearing on Thursday to decide whether his father and stepmother should be put on trial in the case.

In her second day on the witness stand, Detroit Police officer Lori Dillon testified about the day when she and other officers found the boy, who was then 11.

She said he had been hesitant to leave the basement, and while on their way to a hospital for an examination, she stopped at a McDonald's drive-through.

"I didn't think there was any harm in feeding a hungry child," she said when defense lawyers questioned whether it was appropriate to take him for food.

Testimony from the now 13-year-old boy, initially expected this week, could come later in the process, depending on the testimony from other witnesses, according to Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Carin Goldfarb.

The preliminary hearing will resume on April 28, the next date that all parties involved were available.

The boy's father, Charles Bothuell IV, 46, and his stepmother, Monique Dillard-Bothuell, 37, are charged with torture and second-degree child abuse. Torture carries up to life in prison and second-degree child abuse up to four years.

Prosecutors have said the child's parents physically abused him, depriving him of food, banishing him to the basement and forcing him to perform extreme exercise.

Bothuell's attorney, Shawn Patrick Smith, has called the boy a liar.

The boy's father reported him missing on June 14, triggering a widespread police search that came up empty until a Michigan State Police sergeant and an FBI agent found him alive and hungry barricaded behind boxes in the basement of his house.

On Wednesday Dillon told the court she visited the family's home twice, on June 19 while the child was still missing and on June 25, the day he emerged from the basement.

During her first visit, Dillon described a dirty home and showed the court a PVC pipe that the father told her was used to discipline the boy.

When she returned on a second visit, Dillon said the house was cleaner and she noticed a coat in a closet that matched the description of the one the boy was last wearing. While she was outside the home, Dillon was called back inside by a colleague who told her the boy had been found.

(Reporting by Serena Maria Daniels; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Sandra Maler and Eric Beech)