By Calvin Palmer
A Vermont man kept his stepson as a sex slave, threatened him, denied him food and water and confined him to a bedroom with an alarm system designed to stop his escaping, according to police.
The boy, now 17, lived with his stepfather for almost six years. He told police Robert J. Pratt sent him to school in long-sleeved shirts and pants so no one would see his bruises and scars.
He came forward after Pratt, 37, of Bennington, kicked him out of the apartment. He went to live with his mother in the same apartment complex and told her of his life with Pratt.
Investigators made the boy wear a wire in an attempt to verify his claims.
When asked by the victim why Pratt sexually abused him, Pratt replied: “I have tried to block that out.”
Under police questioning, Pratt did not deny the sexual activity but blamed it on the victim’s “desires”.
Pratt, who has no prior criminal record, pleaded not guilty yesterday to six charges, including aggravated sexual assault, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and unlawful restraint. He was ordered held without bail.
“When this was brought to the attention of law enforcement, we all were taken aback at the pervasive and lengthy abuse that was going on, and had been going on for years,” prosecutor Erica Marthage said today. “It was concerning to all of us that this was something we potentially missed for this long. It makes you wonder.”
Neighbors interviewed at the Applegate Apartments complex were shocked by the charges against Pratt, describing him as a quiet, slightly-built man who was into camping, hunting and fishing.
“He’s not that type,” said Mary Hunt, who has known Pratt since they were children. “I don’t think he’s got a mean bone in his body.”
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]