An Eagan couple has been charged with keeping a 15-year-old boy locked in a basement bedroom with no bed and no lights, and forcing him to do as many as 2,000 pushups a day.
Angela Marie Danner, 41, the boy’s mother, and Gregory Allan Danner, 44, his stepfather, are each charged with neglect of a child and malicious punishment of a child. The charges are gross misdemeanors, each with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
The 15-year-old victim contacted Eagan police on April 2 and said that his mother and stepfather had removed his bed and the lights from his basement bedroom as punishment, and had also blocked the bedroom window from the outside to prevent any light from shining into the room, according to the criminal complaint.
The boy told police that he slept on the floor with a pillow and a blanket. He said the Danners severely limited his showers, telling him that he could use the shower at his father’s house when his father has him for court-ordered visits.
The couple also told the boy that if he wanted clean clothes, he should ask his father to buy detergent for him and wash his clothes in the bathtub or sink, according to the complaint.
Police continued to talk to the victim in April and May and learned that his mother and stepfather required him to stay in his room all the time when he was home, except to use the bathroom or when he was required to do chores or exercises, the complaint says.
He told officers that his sister brought peanut butter sandwiches to him every night in his room, and he was told to leave the plate on the stairs for someone to carry upstairs to the kitchen. He said the Danners had installed a video camera in his bedroom so they could monitor him.
The boy said he was required to do hundreds of military-style pushups every day—sometimes as many as 1,500 or 2,000, but never fewer than 500—and that he had difficulty sleeping because he was sore from the pushups. He said he had been required to do extreme exercises since he was 12 or 13.
The Danners also required the boy to do the “wall chair” exercise from 20 minutes to an hour, and that he was sometimes required to run several miles outside in very cold temperatures, according to the complaint. The Danners called the exercise “therapy,” the boy said.
The boy told police that Gregory Danner spanked him occasionally, once administering between 40 and 50 blows as punishment for profane words in lyrics that the boy had written down. He said that he tried to curl up in a ball when he was spanked, but said Gregory Danner knocked him down or grabbed him by the neck to get him into a position to spank him.
Angela Danner told her son that if he said anything bad about the family, she would never speak to him again, according to the complaint. The boy said the exercises and punishment made him very angry at Gregory Danner.
Police investigated conditions in the home, located in the 1700 block of Woodgate Lane, and found that the light bulb had been removed from the light fixture in the basement bedroom. They found only a pillow and a blanket in the room, and foam over the windows to block out the light.
Follow-up investigations found that the Danners had removed the coverings from the bedroom windows and installed a light bulb after authorities told them to do so. However, Gregory Danner “threw things around” the boy’s room and forced him to do pushups until 1 a.m. after the directive from authorities, the complaint says.
The boy told police that as of April 25, he still didn’t have a bed. He said that his father asked for the boy’s medication in May 2012, but Angela Danner refused to give it to him until he gave her money for it, according to the complaint.
The victim told police that he felt “very angry” about how his mother and stepfather treated him, and that it made him feel as if he wanted to hurt them. He said he had experienced significant psychological stress.
The Danners are free pending future court appearances.