Being a child to divorced parents always comes with different challenges, and it’s usually hard for the parents as it is for their children. It’s a tricky situation that needs to be handled with careful thought and requires preparations and sacrifices on the side of both parents and children. Naturally, every parent wants an equal opportunity to spend time with their children, and the situation becomes even more complicated when one of the parents remarries. This was the case for Gregory Junior when he went on an innocent visit to his father and his new wife, a visit that turned out to be a nightmare that no one could anticipate.
His happy place
9-year-old Gregory Junior was living with his mother Lisa and younger brother Samuel a quiet life in Florida. They didn’t have much, but they were a happy family.
The only thing missing in Gregory’s life was a father figure, as his father and mother had separated a few years back.
Every child needs a father figure
The couple was never married, but still, when they separated, they established an informal agreement maintaining that Gregory Senior would send money to his ex to help raise their children.
Gregory Senior lived in Georgia with his new wife, Samantha Joy, but he still cared for his children and wanted to be a part of their lives.
Family comes first
The feelings were mutual, and Gregory Junior, on his part, did everything he can to keep in touch with his father. It was important for him to have his father in his life, if not physically at least emotionally.
He made sure to speak with him on the phone on a daily basis, and so, according to him, he would call him every day after school. Gregory loved his dad and valued him, despite his parents splitting up.
A bad idea
The father suggested that his two sons, Gregory Junior and Samuel, should come out to visit him and his new family in Georgia. At the time, it seemed like a good idea for the kids to see their father occasionally, but that’s when the horror began.
Gregory Senior suggested this directly to his son, without previous consultation with his mother Lisa. Naturally, Gregory Junior was excited about the idea.
All the arrangements were made, and the children were ready to visit their father. The separation from their mother was hard, but it was alleviated by the knowledge they will soon see their beloved father.
When they arrived at Georgia, the visit went smoothly and peacefully, and there was no way for Gregory to anticipate how it would end.
The visit came to an end and it was time for the brothers to return home to Florida. However, Samantha Joy, their new step-mother, had other plans for Gregory Junior.
According to Samantha Joy’s instructions, Samuel was sent home on his own, while Gregory was forced to stay behind. The kids didn’t fully understand why he had to stay, but as Samantha Joy was an authority figure for them, they were reluctant to argue with her.
When Samuel returned by himself, Lisa became concerned for her elder son. Doing the only thing she could think of, she informed the Orlando court services that her son was missing.
Since Lisa was an immigrant, she wasn’t fully familiar with the law system, and so she didn’t know she was obliged to notify the police as well. Had she known that and contacted the police earlier, this whole nightmare might have been avoided.
At first, Gregory’s stepmother explained that he had to stay with them since his mother’s financial situation didn’t allow her to support two children, and that everyone was better off if he stayed with his father.
According to Gregory Junior, his stepmother told him that his mother didn’t wish for him to return, and he assumed it was due to financial difficulty.
The evil stepmother
Things took an ugly turn for Gregory Junior, as his stepmother became the regular evil step-mother we all know from children’s tales. She made him sleep on a camp bed in the garage, behind a makeshift wall, so that he wouldn’t be seen.
Though Samantha Joy had children of her own that she took perfect care of, she made Gregory live in a shameful condition, sleeping in the garage with only a thin blanket to warm him during the winter, in a hostage situation that lasted four unbearable years.
Things escalated quickly
At first, she allowed Gregory to attend school and feel somewhat like a normal kid, but soon enough she pulled him out. Apparently, Gregory did what any sensible kid would, and complained in school about the disgracing conditions he was forced to live in.
He reached out to the school counselor, and when Samantha Joy found out about this, she immediately pulled him out.
From bad to worse
The school didn’t take matters like this lightly, and they decided to make a house visit, to see what was really going on behind closed doors in Gregory’s home.
However, Samantha Joy expected something like this might happen, and so she hid everything – the camp bed in the garage, the bucket Gregory was forced to use as a toilet, and the stick she used to hit him with.
The school team didn’t find anything unusual during the visit, and as a result, Gregory wasn’t allowed to return to school. When he thought it couldn’t get any worse, his treatment only went downhill from there.
Samantha Joy began homeschooling Gregory, but she had a nasty approach to it. According to Gregory’s testimony, she would give him impossible deadlines for assignments, and if he didn’t finish on time, he didn’t get anything to eat that day.
It’s hard to believe anyone can treat a 9-year-old kid this way, especially given that his father was around throughout this nightmare and never intervened.
This punishment was routine, and whenever he didn’t finish the morning assignments before 8:45 am, he wouldn’t get any breakfast, and if he failed to finish the noon assignment by 12:00 pm, he would not get lunch.
A 9-year-old maid
Samantha Joy was very intimidating, and she warned Gregory Junior about disobeying her. As a 9-year-old, he felt powerless against her.
Eventually, she scared him into doing anything she said, including physical housework that no other kid in the house was required to do.
Scared to submission
Samantha Joy also scared Gregory by saying she had a history in prison, though she never specified the cause for her arrest. Nevertheless, it was enough to make Gregory scared of her.
Gregory later shared that she made him clean the house, the garage and the yard, and she treated him as if he was her maid. He was also forced to stay at the house cleaning while the rest of the family went out for movies or restaurants.
The abuse continued as Samantha Joy humiliated Gregory by making him go to the bathroom in a bucket in front of his step-siblings and their friends.
It seemed as if she enjoyed humiliating the child, as she encouraged her children to invite friends over to watch him go in the bucket. He recalled how they all sat and laughed at his suffering.
Not a very merry Christmas
Another form of punishment Samantha Joy applied was preventing her 9-year-old hostage from celebrating Christmas with the family.
He did get Christmas presents, but he was never allowed to play with them. In practice, the presents belonged to his step-siblings, as they were the only ones to ever use them.
Keeping his head up
Throughout this time, Gregory Junior tried to remain as positive and hopeful as can be. The hardest thing for him was being separated from his mother and biological siblings, whom he missed endlessly.
He later shared that although he used to cry himself to sleep every night, the only thing that kept him going and gave him strength was the thought of his family back in Florida.
After four years of this nightmare, Gregory decided that if he didn’t act, he might not see his family again. He knew that he needed to do something and devised a plan.
He got hold of a cellphone lying around in the house and used it to call his mother. He told her everything about the past four years and how he was kept hostage by Samantha Joy.
Never losing hope
His mother couldn’t have been more relieved to finally hear from her son, but at the same time, she was also horrified to learn of his suffering in the past four years.
She immediately made a call to 911 to notify them of this terrible crime, and gave them the address where her son was being held hostage in the garage.
Taking a turn for the worst
Much like the failure of the school team coming to check on the house, when the cops got to the Georgia house, they failed to find anything, as Samantha used a makeshift wall in the garage to hide Gregory.
When the cops finally left, you can only imagine how mad Samantha must have been. She ordered her biological son to “get him,” and he jumped on Gregory Junior, punching and beating him.
Second time’s a charm
This ordeal only made Gregory more determined to escape this horror house, and so he made another attempt to get hold of the cellphone until he managed to nake another call to his mother.
His mother called 911 again and instructed them where and how to find her son. This time the cops searched every inch of the house and the garage until they found the scared kid.
An emotional reunion
Gregory recalls how relieved and thankful he felt when the cops finally found him. His mother and siblings arrived as well, after driving all night to reunite with Gregory.
After four desperate years, the happy family finally reunited, thanks to the resourcefulness of a 9-year-old kid.
After saving Gregory, Samantha Joy and Gregory Senior were arrested and charged with false imprisonment and child cruelty.
After everything that he’s been through, Gregory remained a positive kid. He said that this ordeal made him stronger and inspired him to become a lawyer when he grows up, to help others like the cops helped to save him.