CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have arrested a mother and her boyfriend after they said they chained her children together around their wrists and waists.
Detectives said Melissa Gonzalez-Guzman and Felipe Gonzalez-Guzman face charges of child abuse and false imprisonment.
Police reports showed that investigators have pictures of the children chained together.
The children are 9,6,4,and 3 years old.
Police said the alleged abuse happened at a home on Statesville Road in north Charlotte.
According to warrants, the Department of Social Services responded to the home on July 18 after receiving a tip that six children were being chained to their beds and locked in their rooms by their mother and her boyfriend.
On Wednesday, Felipe Gonzalez’s sister told Eyewitness News reporter Mark Becker that she had reported abuse in the home eight months earlier, saying Melissa Gonzalez would lose patience with the children and restrain them.
“She would tie them up with string and lock them in the bathrooms,” Gonzalez’s sister said.
She also said the abuse included hitting.
“The little girl was being hit real bad, and she was being thrown down the stairs,” she said through an interpreter.
DSS wouldn’t comment on the allegations, but a woman who says she’s known Melissa Gonzalez for fifteen years said she is aware of at least one time when someone had reported abuse in the Gonzalez home. She said she did not know what was going on in the last two months, but wishes she did.
“If I did…there would definitely been some kind of report,” she said.
While responding to the home to check on the children, a social worker and an officer noticed a bunk bed in the hallway with two metal linked chains on each end of the bed, with small master locks attached to them.
They also noticed doors in the home that were closed and padlocked, according to the warrant, and found chains on a bed, in a closet and on a tree outside.
While the social worker interviewed one of the children, the officer stood with the other children while they played on their mother's phone, taking photos and making videos.
The officer said he saw photos on the phone depicting four children with linked chains around their wrists and waists. The officer said he also saw a picture of what appeared to be an autistic 3-year-old chained to a chair.
According to the warrant, both the social worker and the officer noticed bruises and marks on the wrist of the 9-year-old and on the ankle of the 6-year-old, consistent with and caused by being restrained by linked chains.
All the children in the photos were identified as children living in the home.
A friend of Felipe Gonzalez told Channel 9 Tuesday that the children are with his sister, but could not say where.
But even after their rescue, police said the abuse may scar the children for some time.
“From what we know in this investigation the long term impact of being treated like that is difficult for anybody,” CMPD Lt. Tom Barry said.
Neighbors who had not heard of the abuse were stunned and could not imagine why parents would chain up their own children.
“We have problems already with people abusing kids and thankfully somebody found out about it and they done something about it,” a man who did not want to be identified said.
Officials with the Council for Children’s Rights weighed in on the issue, saying child maltreatment needs to be taken more seriously.
“We don't prosecute nearly to the degree which we should,” Sara Ward, with CFCR, said. “It almost takes something like this, when you see children treated like animals and chained up, for people to react."
CFCR also stressed the need to be proactive, calling this the fallout of much larger systemic issues.
“Families need help with housing, with childcare, with making sure their basic needs are met,” Colleen Mullan, with CFCR, said. “You can imagine what that stress does to a family. We need to support kids and families."
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