June 25, 2014 at 1:00 am

Questions remain after missing Detroit boy found in dad's home

Charlie )

Detroit— A 12-year-old boy missing for 11 days was found secreted in his family’s basement Wednesday, and Police Chief James Craig said the child’s parents “have a lot of questions to answer.”

Just hours before they discovered Charlie Bothuell behind a makeshift barrier at the townhouse at Lafayette Park, police said he possibly had been killed.

Craig hosted a press conference outside the townhouse to announce the child had been found, apparently unharmed, and had been placed in protective custody. Charlie’s father, Charlie Bothuell IV, who halted an interview with HLN’s “Nancy Grace” show, interrupted the chief’s press conference and insisted he didn’t know his son had been hiding in the basement.

“I searched; my wife searched, the police searched,” Bothuell IV said. “Any intimation that I knew he was there is absurd. I’m a nurse. I take care of people.”

Detroit police detectives and FBI investigators had searched the townhouse in the 1300 block of Nicolet Place four times since Charlie went missing, Craig said.

“There were cadaver dogs, and it seems to me they would have picked up on it if he was in the basement when they searched,” Craig said.

Craig said it doesn’t appear the boy could have gotten into the hiding place alone. He was crouched behind a heavy drum, the chief said, and “the investigators had to move lots of boxes that were stacked up; if he did it by himself, how does that happen? Is it impossible? Maybe not, but it doesn’t appear he could have done it alone.

“All I know is, he was really excited to see us. One could interpret something from that.”

The chief added he’s not sure where Charlie’s stepmother, Monique Dillard-Bothuell, is. Bothuell insisted police told his wife to leave the area.

“The FBI ... forced my wife to leave,” Bothuell said.

Craig said that didn’t make sense. “I don’t know why he’s asserting the FBI said she had to leave; seems to me they would’ve asked her to stand by,” he said. “That’s him talking.”

Craig said the boy “won’t be put back into the home until we finish our investigation.”

“I didn’t see any signs of abuse, but the child protective people will certainly look for that,” the chief said.

Meeting with reporters Wednesday, before Charlie was found, Craig said police had expanded the scope of their investigation to include the possibility that the boy had been killed. He said foul play was a possibility.

“This was based on evidence the detectives found,” Craig said after Charlie was found alive. “I think there was a premature reaction; you might find some kind of evidence that suggests there was a homicide, but that doesn’t mean there was one. We put the information out there, and then we got an update.”

Charlie reportedly left his home at about 9 p.m. June 14. His father said the boy got into an argument with his stepmother before saying he was going to use the bathroom. Bothuell said that was the last time he saw him.

The father took a lie detector test but insisted it be administered by the FBI — not Detroit police. The results were inconclusive. His wife has refused to take a lie-detector test, Craig said.

“I want to take (another lie-detector test) with the media,” Bothuell said. “I want my name cleared, and my family name cleared.”

When asked whether his son could have moved the heavy barrel to access his basement hiding place alone, Bothuell implied that he could: “Have you seen the pictures of my son?” he asked.

At one point while speaking with reporters, Bothuell broke into tears.

“I want to talk to my son,” he said. “He needs some intervention. He needs a whole lot of help at this point.”

Last week, the FBI used cadaver dogs to search Charlie’s home, which led them to a nearby elementary school playground where the boy was known to hang out. The search went cold at the playground, said the boy’s father.

Bothuell and several other family members passed out fliers last week at the nearby Martin Luther King Apartments, where one resident told relatives she saw Charlie walking east on Lafayette on June 14.

Bothuell said the child’s mother lives one mile east of his home on Nicolet. Two years ago, he said Charlie left without permission and was found a block from his mother’s house, within three hours of police responding.

ghunter@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2134