Police: Autistic man kept in dungeon-like room

MIAMI (AP) — A Miami-area woman repeatedly drugged her autistic adult son and locked him in a filthy, dungeon-like room with iron bars inside her mobile home so she could spend time with her boyfriend, authorities said.

Gladys Jaramillo has been charged with aggravated abuse and neglect on a mentally disabled adult and false imprisonment. It is not clear if she has an attorney. Jaramillo was being held on $15,000 bond. Jail records indicate she is also being held for an immigration check.

An anonymous caller tipped off Sweetwater Police on Thursday, saying the 30-year-old man was often locked up and left alone for long periods. When officers broke in, they found a small room with a mattress, a blacked-out window and a rusted iron door that locked only from the outside. The room had no lighting and a “strong odor of urine and feces,” according to the police report. The victim was left without food, water and access to a bathroom or telephone, police said.

Gladys Jaramillo and her son returned home shortly after authorities arrived. Jaramillo, 56, told police said she had left her son “on numerous occasions locked up in his room by iron bars and dead bolt in order for her to go out with her boyfriend and enjoy herself,” according to an arrest report.

Investigators said Jaramillo also admitted giving her son sedatives “so he would fall asleep throughout the time she was away,” the report said.

The man was taken to a hospital with scratches and bruises and is being evaluated to see if he may need any services going forward. The Department of Children and Families is working with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to find an appropriate place for the son to live, such as with a family member or a group home, after he leaves the hospital, DCF spokeswoman Lissette Valdes-Valle said.

The case will go to court in the next few weeks, where a judge will appoint a guardian for the man.

Adult protective investigators visited the home in March after receiving a complaint to the state’s abuse hotline. The house was clean, and the victim appeared well cared for. Investigators found no evidence of the undisclosed allegation and closed the case, according to a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the incident. The person said the allegation stemmed from an incident that occurred four months earlier.

DCF declined to comment on the incident, saying it cannot legally discuss allegations or findings of abuse or neglect.

The son was on a waiting list to receive services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the person familiar with the investigation said. Services can include adult day care; having a companion come to the home to help with things such as cooking and cleaning; occupational therapy; and construction improvements so the patient can be more independent in their home, according to the agency’s website.

Neighbors in the family’s well-kept mobile home park said they never saw signs of abuse.

Eric Liboy said he often saw Jaramillo and her son leaving their coral-colored mobile home and getting into the car, but never spoke to them. Ocassionally, he said, he saw the man help his mother carry groceries or with small tasks in the yard.

“I was shocked,” said Liboy, 35. “I’ve always seen them like a happy family.”

Johane Lazo, who lives behind the family’s mobile home, said she had never seen anyone come out of the house and never heard anything.

“I was sad,” the 18-year-old said after seeing pictures in media reports of the room where police said the victim was kept. “I didn’t think that was human at all.”

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