December 21, 2014

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Teen found locked in hidden room

Stephanie Reitz
The Associated Press

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. — Police looking for clues in the yearlong disappearance of a 15-year-old girl said they found her Wednesday, pale but alive, locked in a hidden room in a home owned by an acquaintance of her parents.
Bloomfield police went to the home Wednesday in nearby West Hartford to serve search warrants for DNA and other evidence and found the girl locked inside a tiny room hidden underneath a staircase and blocked from view by a dresser.
Authorities did not identify the girl, but said she had sometimes run away from home before she vanished last June.
“She is a child from troubled circumstances and found what she believed to be a friend,” Bloomfield police Capt. Jeffrey Blatter said.
Police arrested Adam Gault, 41, a dog trainer from West Hartford, and 40-year-old Ann Murphy, described by police as Gault’s common-law wife. Police said they also arrested a third woman who lived in the house, but no other details were available.
Gault was charged with second-degree unlawful restraint, second-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree custodial interference, interfering with an officer, risk of injury to a minor and second-degree forgery. He was being held on $500,000 bond.
Murphy was charged with conspiracy to commit second-degree reckless endangerment, conspiracy to commit second-degree custodial interference and risk of injury to a minor. She was held on $100,000 bond.
Both were expected to appear Thursday in Hartford Superior Court.
It did not appear the girl had been living in the room, but she could not have opened the locked, barricaded door on her own, police said. It was not clear how long she had been inside.
Investigators said she was pale and may have been indoors for some time, and that they found nothing to indicate anyone in the area had seen her outside. Her parents had not seen her or heard anything from her over the year she was missing.
The girl was in protective custody Wednesday night and was undergoing medical and psychological examinations.
“We can all assume that a
14-year-old under the influence of a 40-year-old has been harmed in some way,” he said.
Police already had established that Gault knew the girl, and said he and the girl’s parents had some sort of undisclosed business transaction in the year before she disappeared. Officers had questioned Gault several times, but he always denied any involvement in her disappearance.
Without a search warrant, investigators never got past Gault’s front door — until Wednesday morning.
Officers who served the warrants were searching the home’s disheveled interior when one of the investigators slid a dresser aside and discovered a small door.
He slid open the lock, opened the door and looked inside, then called out: “Lieutenant, you better get in here,” Blatter said.
The girl was sitting inside a room that was about 3 feet high and 4 to 5 feet deep. Police said they did not find bedding inside.
Other people were living in the house, including a 15-year-old boy, though it wasn’t clear whose child he was.
The boy’s case has been referred to the Department of Children and Families, which will also decide if the missing girl should be returned to her parents.
Neighbors said Gault and Murphy had lived in the white two-story house for five or six years, posting signs in the yard advertising puppies for sale. An empty chain-link dog kennel with two doghouses could be seen in the backyard.

060707house.jpgAP
A Bloomfield police officer investigates the home of Adam Gault in West Hartford, Conn., on Wednesday.