HYDE PARK — Residents of Newport Condominiums said on Wednesday they were rattled after a woman in the building was arrested, accused of locking her 7-year-old son in a closet and severely beating him over a two-year period.
Caroline Woods, 24, was in court Tuesday, charged with beating her 7-year-old with an electrical cord, pole and baseball beat. A court-appointed doctor who examined the boy after he was found running next to Lake Shore Drive in a dirty diaper said that the boy had the most injuries he had every seen on one person.
Police said Woods' boyfriend, who prosecutors claim also participated in the abuse, has not been arrested, and detectives believe he moved to California several weeks ago.
Residents of the two condominium towers at 4800 S. Chicago Beach Drive said they were horrified after finding out the details of Woods’ arrest on Sunday.
“I can’t believe that happened right here,” said Betty Riley, who has lived in the building since 1993 and lives two floors down from Woods and her boyfriend.
She said the building allows residents to tune in to the building’s security cameras on their televisions and she said she watched Woods being led out of the building with her 2-year-old daughter by police on Sunday.
“That poor child, he’ll never be right,” Riley said of the 7-year-old.
Woods’ neighbors on the same floor said there was no indication that there was child abuse happening in the condo Woods and her boyfriend were renting.
“I heard a baby cry, that was all. I never saw the boy at all,” said one neighbor, who did not want to be identified because the boyfriend has not been arrested.
Other neighbors said they had no idea there was a 7-year-old in the apartment at all because they never saw or heard him, though they did see Woods with her daughter in a stroller several times.
The boy told police he was never allowed to go outside and was often left home alone. Police found the boy wearing a dirty diaper running next to Lake Shore Drive on Sunday, and an investigation found he had been fed sporadically, was frequently locked in a closet and beaten with household objects, prosecutors said in court.
He and his sister were placed in protective custody Sunday, according to the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.
Neighbors on the same floor said they saw both Woods and her boyfriend in the halls, but they did not talk much to them. One neighbor described the boyfriend as a “know-it-all,” but said she had only talked to him once.
Workers in the building, who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said it was common knowledge in the building that Woods and her boyfriend were not paying rent and said Cook County sheriffs had several times asked for their help finding the boyfriend to serve an eviction notice.
“They’ve been trying to put the guy out — he’s a squatter,” said one worker. “They can’t serve the papers to him because he’s always hiding.”
Woods' uncle, Ed O'Donnell, said Wednesday that there were signs the boy was being abused in 2012. He said Woods came to him and other family members at the time claiming the boy was being sexually abused by a relative.
"It was supposedly sexual abuse," O'Donnell said.
He said the boy was a "bright little boy, really happy, very friendly."
He said Woods had a falling-out with family members in 2013 over allegations she was mistreating her grandmother, whom she was caring for at the time in Country Club Hills, and he lost contact with her.
O'Donnell said he knew little about the boyfriend, who was also living with Woods in 2012, and no one in the family trusted him because he seemed controlling.
"I just want to see these two to come to justice," O'Donnell said.
According to prosecutors, Woods’ boyfriend forced the boy to sit on a hot stove and burned his genitalia with a hot curling iron.
A representative from the the building management company was not immediately available to comment.
The owner of the unit Woods and her boyfriend were renting could not be reached for comment.
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