A Canadian husband and wife are accused taking the infant son of a homeless man, who they imprisoned in their basement, while raising the boy as their own.
Gary Willett Sr. and his wife, Maria, are on separate trials for charges including forcible confinement, assault, theft and abduction of a child under the age of 14.
Authorities said the bizarre and tragic case began in 1989, when the couple found Tim Goldrick looking for food in downtown Toronto.
According to weeks of court testimony examined by the Toronto Star, the Willetts befriended Goldrick and his common-law wife, Barbara Bennett, both of whom have unspecified intellectual disabilities, and helped them find a home.
But soon the Willetts began taking advantage of Goldrick and Bennett, prosecutors said.
They allegedly took the couple’s government disability checks and when Bennett went to the hospital to have their son, the Willetts allegedly took him, too.
Maria Willett helped Bennett fill out paperwork and let her use her insurance card at the hospital, Bennett said in court.
“I figured if I didn’t [use the insurance card] I’d probably get hit,” Bennett testified, The Star reported. “At the time, I didn’t know if it was wrong or not.”
The Willetts allegedly lied on hospital records so the baby would appear to be theirs.
As they raised Goldrick and Bennett’s son as their own, the Willetts allegedly abused the pair, who they kept in their home.
“I would get hit and get told to do it again. Clean it up. Clean up the mess,” Bennett reportedly testified. “I would get slapped. In the face... three or four [slaps] depending on how mad she was.”
Bennett became pregnant in 1993 and after she had her baby girl, whom she named Billie-Jean, Bennett decided she needed to leave the home.
“[Billie-Jean] was a baby and I didn’t want her around it,” Bennett said.
Bennett and the baby managed to get out of the house with the help of her own mother, The Star reported. But the Willetts still had her young son and Goldrick, who was reportedly kept in a tiny section of the basement.
Goldrick testified that the Willetts often beat him, especially if he took food out of the refrigerator, which reportedly had a camera on it.
Other beatings seemed to come for no reason, Goldrick said.
“Sometimes, while I was sleeping, Gary [Sr.] would come in and hit me for no reason, and I’d wake up and I wondered why he did this. But I never found out why,” Goldrick said.
Goldrick said he was forbidden from taking food from the fridge, and often ate dog food to survive.
He testified that while he was living with the Willetts, he weighed 106 pounds. At six foot three, Goldrick now weighs 230 pounds, The Star reported.
Gary Willett Jr. told the court he once saw Goldrick, whom he knew as the man who lived in the basement, cough up blood, but Goldrick told him not to tell anyone.
Willett Jr., who testified that Willett Sr. also hit him, said he left home a few years after dropping out of high school.
He said he was told by relatives that Goldrick was actually his father, and while driving with a friend, he spotted Goldrick walking during a rare trip out in 2012.
“We said, ‘Listen, Tim, if you want out and you want a better life, then you come with us now,’” Willett Jr. testified.
Goldrick got in the car.
He was treated for severe dental issues, including missing and broken teeth, numerous cavities and infections, as well as severe bone loss that exposed more than 50 percent of his teeth’s roots, his dentist testified.
Willett Jr. said he does not have a relationship with his biological mother, Bennett, because she hasn’t been forthcoming about details about his life.
“I think about why it happened, why is my life like this?” he told The Star. “How is someone stolen as a child and everything is OK?”
Willet Sr.’s case is ongoing. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges he is facing.
He claimed that Goldrick willingly gave up his son and that he never hit or confined Goldrick.
Maria Willett’s attorney told The Star she is being examined by a court-appointed specialist to determine whether she is medically fit to stand trial.
Goldrick now lives with his biological son in a Toronto apartment.
He told The Star that he is happy, but still dealing with the trauma of his nearly 25 years in captivity.
“I take pills for the shakes and nighttime pills for sleep,” he said. “I have nightmares because of this.”