DETROIT, Michigan — An 11-day search for a missing Michigan boy came to a bizarre conclusion Wednesday when he was discovered alive and well, hidden in the basement of his father’s home in Detroit.
Finding 12-year-old Charlie Bothuell resolves the key issue in the missing child case, but the circumstances of his discovery leave other questions hanging.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig told CNN affiliate WXYZ-TV.
“We found him barricaded in the basement, behind boxes and a large five-gallon drum. There’s no way he could have erected this makeshift area of concealment.”
Yet the boy’s father said authorities checked the basement multiple times before Wednesday. And on Thursday, Detroit police spokesman Sgt. Mike Woody told CNN it appeared the child had arrived in the basement only recently and didn’t appear to be captive.
Still, Woody said that evidence — including bloody clothing that investigators found at the home — indicate something might have been “afoul.”
Father learns news on live TV
Adding to the drama, Charlie’s father, Charles Bothuell IV, heard the revelation that the child had been found during a live TV interview Wednesday with HLN’s Nancy Grace.
When Grace told him the news, Bothuell became visibly upset, looking dazed and bewildered, breathing hard and clutching his chest.
When he recovered enough to speak, he said he had no idea how his son could have turned up in his house.
“I checked my basement,” Bothuell said. “The FBI checked my basement. The police checked my basement. My wife checked my basement. I’ve been down there several times. We’ve all been checking.”
A desperate search
Charlie disappeared on June 14, a Saturday night, when he walked out of the house.
“He had — you know, not done some of his chores and instead of arguing at him or fussing or anything, my wife just said OK,” his father told Grace during an earlier appearance. “I got a call back from my wife at 9:45 saying that Charlie was gone.”
The father said the family then launched a desperate search.
“I’ve been going door to door since he disappeared,” he said. “We didn`t sleep. We did fliers. We called family members. And we have been doing everything we can since to get the word out to get our son back home.”
Police spokesman: Charlie didn’t appear to be captive
Woody, the Detroit police spokesman, said Thursday that police were executing a search warrant at the home Wednesday afternoon when they found Charlie in a the corner of a small basement room behind a furnace and a mechanical unit.
Charlie smiled at police and didn’t appear to be a captive, Woody said.
It appeared he arrived there recently, and investigators found cereal and soda in the area, Woody said.
The basement had no restroom, but investigators are working on an assumption that he had access to one, according to Woody.
Woody said police have not ruled out charges in the case. He said investigators found bloody clothing at the home but did not elaborate on its significance or say where exactly it was found.
On Wednesday, Craig, the police chief, said investigators had searched the home four times, including once with a cadaver dog.
“We’re not certain Charlie was here during those visits,” he said.
After Charlie was found, he was taken to receive medical treatment, Craig said.
The police chief was asked during an impromptu news conference Wednesday whether an adult was responsible for hiding the boy in the basement.
“We’re not ruling that out,” he said. “It would be hard for me to sit here and tell you that someone didn’t know Charlie was there, but I can’t say definitively.”
‘I love my son’
Later, following his HLN interview, Bothuell told reporters he was shocked by the discovery of his son in his basement, responding angrily to reporters’ questions about who might have known Charlie was there.
“For anybody to imply that I somehow knew my son was in the basement is absurd and wrong. I love my son. I’m glad that he’s home,” Bothuell said.
He became overcome with emotion when a reporter asked him about earlier erroneous reports that Charlie may have been the victim of a homicide.
“I thought my son was dead,” he said, beginning to cry.
His distress deepened further when he was asked if he’d seen Charlie yet.
“No, I haven’t,” he said.
“I want to see my son,” he cried, before breaking into sobs and burying his face in the chest of the male reporter standing next to him.
CNN’s Rosa Flores, Greg Botelho, Melanie Whitley, Matthew Stucker, Jason Hanna and Christy Lenz contributed to this report.