UPDATE: The seventh suspect has surrendered to authorities, St. Petersburg police said. [Full story]
ST. PETERSBURG — For nearly a year, a 16-year-old boy was repeatedly sexually abused by four men who kept him prisoner inside a squalid mobile home, police said.
He was rescued in May when police investigated the home at the Silver Lake Mobile Home Community looking for a different missing boy, a 17-year-old from Louisiana.
Now, eight months later, St. Petersburg police say they have arrested six people in three counties in connection with that incident and are searching for a seventh.
St. Petersburg police outlined the allegations at a news conference Tuesday attended by police Chief Tony Holloway and new Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.
"As a mother, I cannot begin to stress how disturbing the facts of this case are for me," Moody said.
The six arrested in the case are: Mark Earl Dennis, 52 and Andrew Barry Dennis, 45, a married couple arrested in Pinellas County; Michael Ray Blasdel, 36, and J.R. Gauthier, 29, who were also arrested in Pinellas; Eleanor Faye McGlamory, 56, arrested in Marion County; and Michael Wayne Schwartz, 51, arrested in Lee County.
Police are still looking for 34-year-old Curtis Lee Gruwell. They also believe there may be other victims out there.
Asked why it took so long to make arrests in this case. St. Petersburg police Maj. Mark Hensley said it was because of "what a complex investigation this is." One victim was from out of state, he said, and police had to collect evidence against seven people in up to three counties so far.
The investigation started in May, when Louisiana authorities told St. Petersburg police that a missing 17-year-old from that state may be living at a trailer at 4000 24th St. N. Just days before, police said, one of the defendants contacted the 17-year-old using the online gaming app Discord. McGlamory, who knew the boy's family, and Gruwell picked him up in Louisiana and drove him to St. Petersburg, police said.
"He was told he was going to go to a place that was better," Holloway said of that victim.
When St. Petersburg police arrived at the home on May 9, they found the 17-year-old and a 16-year-old, who Mark Dennis claimed was his son. In fact, police found out he was not the father and that the 16-year-old was reported missing from Marion County nearly a year ago.
McGlamory, police determined, had also reached out to the younger boy when he was 15, and set up a meeting with the Dennises. They met in person, police said, the couple decided to give the boy "a new identity." They drove the boy back to St. Petersburg. At the boy's house, his mother found a note from her son, asking her not to look for him.
Gruwell and Schwartz lived in the trailer with the Dennises. Those four men, along with Blasdel and Gauthier, all sexually battered the boy, police said. They did not enroll him in school or provide medical care. He was forced to live on a small mattress, surrounded by animal cages and animal waste, police said.
The 17-year-old, who police do not believe was sexually battered, was returned home. The 16-year-old received treatment for his ordeal and is at a safe location.
The Dennises, Blasdel and Gauthier all faces charges of sexual battery of a child under the age of 16. All six defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and interference with custody. All six are being held in various jails across the state, their bail set at six figures.
Anyone with information about this case can send an anonymous tip to St. Petersburg police at tip411 (847411.)
Contact Langston Taylor at 727-893-8659 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @langstonitaylor.